[Date Prev][Date Next]
[cdn-nucl-l] nukes in Poland ?
Expanded EU seen as source for LWR investment
NUCLEONICS WEEK JUNE 3, 2004
The enlargement of the European Union (EU) from 15 to 25 members
May 1 opened the prospect that a significant share of a forecast 300,000
megawatts in replacement and new power generation needed during the
coming 15 years will be nuclear, a senior executive at RWE Power AG told the
German Atomic Forum (DAF) last week.
Some officials attending the 2004 DAF annual conference in Dusseldorf
said that they anticipated that RWE, and perhaps Vattenfall Europe, may in
the next 15 years build a nuclear power project in Poland, given strategic
in an analysis presented to the DAF by Gerd Jaeger, a member of the RWE
RWE is one of several utilities mulling an invitation by Electricite de
France (EDF) to invest in an EPR advanced PWR in France. Last week,
officials said that German utilities thus far have not agreed to the idea,
on economic grounds (NW, 27 May, 1).
Some observers at the DAF conference said they expected
RWE would be more interested in investments in Poland
and other new EU states. “I see RWE making acquisitions,
forming local partnerships, and then, in a few years, going
in with them on a nuclear investment there,” one German executive said.
Others predicted that Vattenfall might likewise look
toward the Baltic region to make a future nuclear investment,
provided that politics in Sweden in a few years’ time
allow the state-owned utility to take such a step.
Jaeger asserted that, political acceptance issues aside, the
prospect that power reactors will be built in new eastern EU states is real.
In both economic growth and power demand, Jaeger
pointed out, the 10 states that joined the EU on May 1 (EU-
10) have a lot of catching up to do with the established
Europe of 15 states (EU-15). Per capita gross domestic product
(GDP) in the EU-15 is now (U.S.)$26,000, compared to
$8,700 in the EU-10. While annual per capita power
demand in the EU-15 is currently about 6,500 kilowatthours,
in the EU-10 demand level is just over half over that, at 3,600 KWH/y.
A 75% increase in power demand in the EU-10, to a level
equivalent with that in the EU-15, could occur with anticipated
economic growth over the next 20 years, Jaeger said.
If that happens, he said, this would mean an increase in
overall EU power demand of about 12% by 2025, an addition
of about 250 terawatt-hours (TWH) “or the equivalent
of about 20 1,600-MW EPR units.”
Compared to the EU-15, where nuclear covers about a
third of power demand, the supply structure of the EU-10
“is similar but somewhat more focused on fossil fuels,”
Jaeger said, since nuclear covers 23% of requirements and
bituminous coal, gas, and lignite about 60%.
According to the Union for the Coordination of
Transmission of Electricity (UCTE), in the EU-25 there is an
overcapacity potential in the grid to supply about 60
gigawatts (GW) in the short term, irrespective of economic
or political constraints. However, Jaeger pointed out, in practical
terms “there will be limits” on the amount of power
which can be exported and imported to and from eastern
EU members. In Poland, for example, “the overcapacity estimated
by UCTE is bigger than the capability of the grid to export power.”
Moreover, Jaeger suggested that overcapacities in the
post-enlargement power grid will evaporate with time
because a huge amount of current infrastructure must be replaced.
RWE projects that, of 650,000 MW of installed capacity
in the EU, by 2025 about 200,000 MW will have to be
replaced, if all assets are retired after 40-year lifetimes.
Assuming that economic growth will prompt more power
demand, additional capacity of about 100,000 MW may be
required, he said. According to a vendor official in
Dusseldorf last week, the expected economic growth path of
EU-10 states and a few others, such as Spain, will require
substantial investment in baseload generation capacity “and
a lot of this could be nuclear.”
Significant for nuclear’s future EU prospects, Jaeger said,
are the future EU politics of emissions management, given
that all EU-10 members agreed to EU emissions guidelines
which will force them in years ahead to adjust their power
production infrastructure. While all EU-10 states have negotiated
with Brussels an adjustment period to meet EU levels,
the last of those adjustments, for Poland, runs out in 2017,
while for Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, the
grace periods will expire between 2005 and 2008.
“The pressure on (EU-10) fossil plants over emissions
rules will intensify,” Jaeger predicted. UCTE’s assertion that
today Poland has an overcapacity of about 8 GW “should be
seen in this light,” he advised.
Despite optimistic projections for the future of renewables
in new EU states—Poland, for example, has called for
renewables’ share in power generation to increase from 2.8%
currently to 7.5% in 2010, and the Czech Republic aims to
increase renewables’ share to 8% in the same period—these
efforts will be driven by “massive subsidies,” Jaeger said, and
“for that reason (renewables) won’t be a major contributor”
to EU-10’s power production “in the foreseeable future.”
While over time emissions rules will impact on EU-10
states’ fuel choices, initially emissions trading will not be a
factor for most new members, since they all suffered severe
economic implosion when the Communist system collapsed
in the beginning of the 1990s. Over time, however, RWE
predicts, emissions trading will emerge as a factor in policy
decisions over fuels in the EU-10, because despite the 1990s’
crash that shut many aging and polluting facilities, per capita
production of carbon dioxide in the EU-10 is still “considerably higher”
than in the EU-15.
“Over the long term this is going to put more pressure”
on the EU-10 to consider nuclear as a carbon-free resource,
Jaeger asserted, especially given that under agreements made
by Lithuania and Slovakia, by 2009, 3,500 MW of nuclear capacity will be
Jaeger singled out Poland as a potential nuclear investment prospect.
Poland’s reliance on domestic coal—about 100-million
tons a year—is expected by RWE to decline, Jaeger said.
While lignite, now supplying 35% of power, will remain a
strategic fuel and some imported coal may supplant falling
domestic output in the future, “the economic prospects for
nuclear power in Poland are highly interesting,” since it
could serve as a competitive baseload power source. “And the
size of the market”—Poland’s power demand is the largest in
EU-10 and twice that of the next largest member, the Czech
Republic—”offers sufficient potential for the necessary infrastructure
and power sales,” the RWE executive said.
Poland’s big market and its current fuels mix are “a
superb basis” for a future nuclear power program, he said.
But Poland is not alone as a potential nuclear investment
target. Plans are being made by the Czech Republic to
expand its nuclear plant portfolio “in view of dropping coal
production and expected increases in demand.” Lithuania
has likewise considered replacing the two reactors at
Ignalina with new units, but Jaeger said it was questionable
whether Lithuania’s total power demand of 10 TWH/y for a
population of 3.5-million would economically justify a new nuclear
As in EU-15 states, Jaeger cautioned, the EU-10 cannot go
forward in expanding nuclear generating capacity unless its
leaders will take the political risk. He pointed out that, in
2002, 47% of 16,000 polled citizens in EU-15 states asserted
in one opinion survey that nuclear reactors were responsible
for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Nuclear
energy “has a long way to go” before it has solved its image
problems in Europe, Jaeger said.—Mark Hibbs, Dusseldorf