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Poland's nuclear age?

21st March 2005
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Tomasz Podgajniak, the Deputy Environment Minister, has called for the development of nuclear power facilities in Poland.

The minister's words are in reaction to the European Union's targets to cut air pollution. Brussels wants to drastically limit CO2 emissions in Europe by 15-30 percent before 2020, and then by 60 percent before 2050. The European Commission is demanding that Poland reduce its plans for 2005-2007 CO2 emissions by 16.5 percent. This means that Poland needs to find sources of energy other than coal, which currently dominates the energy industry.

"If we can't base [energy generation] only on coal, then on what? ... I am definitely in favor of developing nuclear power in Poland - I don't see any alternative," he told Gazeta Wyborcza.

Renewable sources of energy could supply around 10 percent of Poland's energy needs by 2020, but that still means that a new robust, clean source will be needed to provide the bulk of the country's power. Developing nuclear-power facilities is described as one of the targets of the government's energy policy until 2025, which states that the first nuclear power plant should be opened by 2022. Nuclear energy has been considered before, but as Dr Stanisław Latek of the National Atomic Energy Agency said: "Podgajniak is the first to admit that there is no alternative to nuclear energy." What's more, Latek adds that because Poland's dependence on coal will continue to conflict with EU policy, "we might be forced to develop nuclear energy even sooner than the 2020s."

There are 439 nuclear reactors in the world, the bulk of which are in Europe, producing roughly 16 percent of global electricity. Most CEE countries have nuclear reactors - in 2003, 80 percent of Lithuania's electricity came from nuclear plants, while in the Czech Republic and Hungary they account for about one-third of electricity output.

As Latek said: "Stopping the building of a nuclear plant in Żarnowiec was a mistake. Not only did we lose $1 billion on it, but a similar reactor is working well in Hungary." He adds that for the first time in many years there is a positive social climate for such investments in Poland. A survey by Pentor from December 2004 shows that more Poles favor developing nuclear power installations (42 percent) than are against it (38 percent).

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