September 4, 2012 / 4:15 PM / 7 years ago

KGHM, 3 utilities to share cost of 1st Polish nuclear project

KRYNICA, Poland, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Poland’s top three utilities and copper miner KGHM will sign a deal on Wednesday to share the cost of building the country’s first nuclear power station, their executives said, estimated at 30 billion to 50 billion zlotys ($9-15 billion).

Poland wants to develop nuclear power to reduce its dependence on highly polluting coal, but top utility PGE , which is managing the project, cannot support the entire cost on its own.

All four companies planning to sign a letter of intent on the nuclear plant are state-controlled. The huge costs and long lead times before the first power is sold make it difficult for nuclear power projects to attract private companies.

“The agreement will be signed on Wednesday, at 1600 (local time),” PGE Chief Executive Krzysztof Kilian said on Tuesday in an interview.

Executives of Tauron, Poland’s second-biggest utility; Enea, the third-biggest; and miner KGHM told Reuters their companies would participate in the agreement.

It was not clear whether other companies will join in.

“The letter of intent will be a very general document, which will allow us to set up working groups dedicated to the nuclear power project. Issues concerning financing will be discussed later,” Enea Chief Financial Officer Hubert Rozpedek said.

European Union member Poland aims to launch a 3 gigawatt nuclear plant by 2023 and double that capacity by 2030 in a bid to reduce reliance on coal and supply energy to its expanding economy.

Poland does not want to switch from coal to gas-fired power stations, because it would have to import gas from Russia, increasing its energy dependence on a country with which it has tense relations.

The Treasury Ministry, which oversees state assets, said earlier that it would be a good idea for state-controlled companies to cooperate in the development of a nuclear plant.

American-Japanese group GE Hitachi , France’s Areva and Westinghouse, a U.S unit of Japan’s Toshiba , have all signaled interest in supplying technology for the project, which has already faced a number of delays.

At the end of June, PGE delayed a tender to select the engineering company for the project, saying it had to work out financing. It is not clear when the tender, previously scheduled for the second quarter of 2012, will move forward. ($1 = 3.3303 Polish zlotys) (Writing by Maciej Onoszko; editing by Jane Baird)

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