Poland expects first nuclear power plant to start in 2033

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s first nuclear power plant is expected to start operating in 2033 - if the project gets a green light from the government, the Energy Ministry said on Friday.

In its draft energy strategy to 2040, a document keenly awaited by market players and analysts, the ministry said the first planned nuclear power plant will have a capacity of 1-1.5 gigawatt (GW).

Ultimately the ministry expects Poland to have a total of 6-9 GW of nuclear power by 2043, which will account for around 10 percent of power generation.

Poland has considered building a nuclear power plant for years, but the government has yet to take a binding decision on the project.

“The nuclear power plant will help us accelerate carbon emissions reduction,” Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski told a news conference on Friday.

Poland plans to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 as compared to 1990, the ministry said.

Tchorzewski said in March that a nuclear program might cost in the region of 70-75 billion zlotys ($18.5-$19.9 billion).

With Poland under pressure from the European Union to lessen its reliance on polluting coal, the argument in favor of nuclear has gained in strength as the Energy Ministry concluded it would be the easiest way to reduce emissions.

The Energy Ministry reaffirmed that it expects the share of coal in electricity production to fall to 60 percent in 2030 from around 80 percent now.

The most polluting lignite coal will almost disappear by 2040 with a growing share of photovoltaic and wind farms.

Poland already has onshore wind farms and its first offshore ones are expected to be built after 2025. Generally Poland expects to increase its power production installed capacity to 72.6 GW from 40 GW at the moment in a response to expected growth in power consumption.

“This long-awaited document is groundbreaking in many aspects,” said deputy environment minister Michal Kurtyka, who will chair U.N. climate talks in Poland next month.

“It is good that is has been published ahead of the climate talks,” Kurtyka added.

The energy strategy draft will now be subject to consultations and is expected to be adopted by the government next year.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, editing by Louise Heavens and Adrian Croft