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Poland Wants US Firms to Buy Equity Stake in Nuclear Project, Tusk’s Aide Says

Poland’s incoming administration is set to pile pressure on foreign companies in the country’s nascent nuclear energy program to buy an equity stake in the venture.

Grzegorz Onichimowski, the chief energy adviser to the Civic Platform party, said the already chosen US partners, Westinghouse Electric Co. and Bechtel Group Inc., should take at least a 30% equity stake in the project. The current plan, inked by the outgoing cabinet, didn’t include any capital injections by the companies.

“Nuclear energy, which enjoys significant public support, is essential for the success of Poland’s energy transition,” Onichimowski said in written comments to Bloomberg. “However, we are aware of the risks related to such a project, that’s why it would be desirable for our partner/supplier to take a capital stake.”

In a bid to boost its energy security, transition away from coal and strengthen ties with the US, the Polish government picked Westinghouse and Bechtel to design and construct the country’s first atomic-power reactors. Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk, tipped to be the next prime minister after his opposition bloc won last month’s election, has made it clear he’s keen on working with the US on the project.

Power Hungry

Poland’s outgoing administration planned to build 6-9 gigawatts in nuclear power by the 2040s, including three AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse. The program’s financing hasn’t been agreed, with the price tag for the first plant seen at at least $20 billion.

Onichimowski said, however, that Poland may not need so much nuclear capacity. “It would be ideal to build two power plants. The first with the Americans and the second, perhaps, with another partner,” he said.

Electricite de France SA and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd have long been interested in nuclear projects in Poland, with the Asian company already in talks on a separate deal with a private Polish partner.

The current government initially wanted its foreign partners to purchase equity stakes of up to 49% but backed out. Instead, the proposal sees Westinghouse and Bechtel helping secure debt financing for the project from the Export-Import Bank of the US.

Tusk, a former president of the European Council, said on Nov. 6 that Poland had to pursue nuclear energy “as quickly as possible” for both economic and political reasons. About 70% of Poland’s power still comes from coal, the biggest share in any European Union member nation.

“We must build this community of economic interests with the US and bind American and Polish interests in a friendly and solid way, because we don’t know what the geopolitical situation will look like in a year or two,” Tusk told supporters in Wroclaw when discussing nuclear power.

Source: Bloomberg