October 22, 2019 / 6:29 AM / a month ago

Poland's richest man to work with GE Hitachi on mini nuclear plant

WARSAW, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Synthos, a chemical group owned by Poland's richest man Michal Solowow, has agreed to work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy on developing technology for a small modular reactor (SMR), Hitachi said on Monday.

Poland still generates most of its electricity from coal but more and more companies are exploring low-carbon options.

"Utilizing small modular reactors to generate clean energy will improve our chances to move away from coal and have a positive impact on our industry and nation," Solowow was quoted as saying.

Polish financial newspaper Puls Biznesu quoted Solowow saying the Synthos and GE Hitachi joint project to build a 300 megawatts (MW) SMR unit will be completed in the next 10 years with capital spending expected at below $1 billion.

Synthos was not immediately available to comment.

Small modular reactors use existing or new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of larger plants and would be able to produce around a tenth of the electricity created by large-scale projects.

Poland plans to build its first traditional nuclear power plant over the next 20 years but is struggling to work out a financing model for the project. Some government officials were quoted as saying earlier this year that Poland could also develop small modular reactors, but a specific plan has not so far been set out.

Warsaw faces increased pressure from the European Union to cut carbon emissions, but argues that phasing out coal cannot be done overnight.

"Small modular reactors can play a significant role in addressing Poland's energy challenges, the modernization of the nation's energy sector and in achieving necessary and responsible deep decarbonization," Solowow said in the statement.

In June Poland led a handful of eastern EU states in blocking a push by France and most others to commit the bloc to net zero emissions by mid-century.

"It is not so easy to switch onto renewable energy sources and nuclear energy is an alternative which might be used," Poland's Finance Minister Jerzy Kwiecinski told public radio on Tuesday.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is a global nuclear venture between Japan's Hitachi and General Electric of the United States. (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko Editing by David Holmes)

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