Author: dr inż. Andrzej Tyszecki
Location of a nuclear power plant in Poland
The first nuclear power plant in Poland is to be erected in the Lubiatowo-Kopalino region, in the Choczewo municipality on the Baltic coast. This location was selected at the end of 2021, following several years of environmental and spatial analyses of a set of three locations: Żarnowiec, Choczewo and Lubiatowo-Kopalino.
Those investment plans could be considered a significant step forward, if not for the fact that as early as in 1970, a “Preliminary analysis of potential locations for an nuclear power plant in the Hel-Ustka and Dolna Wisła regions”, covering 12 locations picked for Soviet WWER 1000 reactors, gave Lubiatowo as the best coastal location, while other locations included a place near the Żarnowiec Lake and Przegalina and Biała Góra by the Vistula.
Half a century later, the history of searching for a location for the first nuclear power plant is making a full circle, when Lubiatowo-Kopalino is once again chosen as the best location. All the while the most basic issues relating to the selection of the nuclear technology, power plant output, number of reactors or cooling system still have not been settled.
Construction of a nuclear power plant and the future of Polish energy security
The construction of the first nuclear power plant means increased energy security in Poland and is a step towards achieving the ambitious goals of the European Union’s climate policy. Irrespective of the selected technology and its provider, this process will certainly involve the introduction of nuclear technologies into the economy in the next hundred years, which is why we will have to face the consequences of the enterprise for much longer, consequences including the storage of radioactive waste, decommissioning of used nuclear reactors and the procedures related with radiological protection or preventing nuclear terrorism.
Specification of a nuclear power plant - technology and output of the installation
In the case of the first nuclear power plant, issues concerning the technology and the output have not been settled yet. In the documents submitted in 2015 for the purposes of environmental procedures, the investor specified the output of up to 3750 Mwe, however, the amount of generated energy was given in a rather wide range of “between approx. 9 and approx. 28 Twh a year”. From these documents we can also conclude that the following types of reactors were considered: a pressurized water reactor (PWR), a boiling water reactor (BWR) and a pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR). Depending on the chosen location and technology, open-looped, closed-looped and combined (hybrid) reactor cooling systems may be used.
The nuclear power plant is to be comprised of technologically related parts and units:
- the nuclear part, the so-called “nuclear island” comprising, above all, reactors with containment and fuel and nuclear waste handling units, as well as units related with safety systems, including failure prevention systems,
- the non-nuclear part, the so-called “conventional island”, including the engine room building with a steam turbine set, a feedwater system and a condensate-feedwater system, as well as a generator with a transformer,
- other elements of a nuclear power plant, above all, elements related with water and sewage management, storage of burnt-up fuel, environmental protection and monitoring,
- cooling water uptake and discharge systems, including all systems related with seawater uptake, its treatment and discharge into the environment.
Nuclear power plant construction and operation - accompanying investments
Accompanying investments will be located outside the nuclear power plant site as the so-called external infrastructure. They are necessary for the next stages of the investment – completion and operation of the nuclear power plant, but they do not impact its primary function, i.e. the production of electric energy. They include:
- offshore infrastructure, a jetty for accepting large-size elements, high-volume elements and bulk cargo delivered by maritime transport,
- road and rail transport infrastructure for passenger and cargo transport,
- air transport infrastructure, e.g. a helipad,
- infrastructure for water supply and sewage collection,
- social and living facilities for permanent and temporary workers with municipal infrastructure,
- communication systems.
Facilities for the management of nuclear waste generated as a result of the nuclear power plant operation are a separate issue. Low-level and intermediate-level waste that will be temporarily stored and processed at the nuclear power plant will be successively sent to the National Radioactive Waste Repository. On the other hand, high-level waste that is burnt-up nuclear fuel will be deposited in a so-called deep cemetery.
Construction of transmission grids for a nuclear power plant
Transmission grids are necessary for outputting power generated by the nuclear power plant into the National Power System. Without them it would be impossible to supply power to the construction site nor ensure backup power supply during the operation of the nuclear power plant. Up to 8 power lines with the voltage of 400 kV will be routed in separate process corridors. It will be necessary to build a new substation for outputting power from the nuclear power plant to the National Power System.
Nuclear power plant surface area - estimated size of the investment
The surface area of the site intended for the construction of the nuclear power plant will depend on the selected technology, its output and other factors. When drawing up an information sheet for the enterprise, with the most expansive scenario, the investor declared that a site of up to approx. 5.90 km2 will be required for the nuclear power plant in the case of the Lubiatowo-Kopalino variant. Process corridors under high voltage and extra high voltage power lines should be added to that, of the width of 250 to 400 m and so far undetermined length in kilometres or dozens of kilometres.
Potential impact zones of a nuclear power plant
The designation of potential impact zones is a result of the experience of countries operating nuclear power plants and the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Local and regional impact zones in Poland are designated under the Atomic Law Act.
Based on the experience of other countries, three zones are usually designated in the vicinity of a nuclear energy source, mostly for the purpose of ensuring radiological protection. The most severe restrictions are applied to the so-called closed-off zone, approx. 500-1000 m from the centre of the nuclear power plant. They concern the power plant site and the immediately adjacent sites whose development is subjected to the generation of power by the non-conventional source. The basis for specifying the radius of the closed-off zone is most of all the site functions related with the operation of the nuclear power plantN, as well as possible radiological consequences related with the occurrence of potential failures (impossibility of ensuring health security in case of a specific category of failure).
The next category of the area surrounding an nuclear power plant is a ring whose internal radius is between 0,5 and 1 km, with an external radius of 3-5 km. This ring is often referred to as the protection zone around the nuclear power plant and it is in fact a closed-off area in which permanent and temporary presence of people, as well as any development is closely supervised.
Outside the protection zone there is another ring reaching approx. 15-20 km from the centre of the nuclear power plant. No changes in development are anticipated in this area. This area is covered by emergency planning, concerning most of all the safety of residents and procedures for various administrative authorities in case of specific radiological hazards.
The Atomic Law Act differentiates between similar local and regional types of impact of an nuclear power plant, designating three zones:
- planned location of a nuclear plant – designated with a circle with a radius from the centre of the nuclear power plant to the furthest point of the property,
- location area – area within the distance of up to 5 km from the nuclear power plant location borders,
- location region – area within the distance of up to 30 km from the nuclear power plant location borders, including the pucki, wejherowski, lęborski districts and the sea area.
The restricted zone also concerns coastal waters. In the case of the Lubiatowo-Kopalino location, with an open-looped seawater reactor cooling system, water intakes will be located 2 km ÷ 3,5 km from the coastline, at the depth of 10-15 m. Cooling water discharge pipelines will also be laid at a similar distance. Estimated amounts of cooling water used in an open-looped cooling system, at the maximum output of the nuclear power plantNPP, will be between 130 m3/s and 200 m3/s.
Impact range of a nuclear power plant
During normal operation, the range of the impact is usually local. Regional and beyond local impact includes, most of all: impact on the climate, changes to water conditions, changes to the landscape and potential loss of cultural heritage values, road and rail transport related nuisance, socio-economic changes and changes in the spatial planning of the nuclear power plant surroundings. The listed types of conventional impact are related with the construction and operation of the nuclear power plant, and some also with its decommissioning (in the 22nd century). On the other hand, non-conventional types of radiological impact will be related with the nuclear power plant operation and a long period after its decommissioning.
This impact will not be very significant and will be controlled, subject to strict requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union. It will involve, above all:
- organised emission of a radioactive gases and aerosols mixture,
- discharge of radioactive waste into the water environment,
- migration and deposition of radionuclides into land and water ecosystems,
- deposition of radioactive waste into cemeteries.
In the case of the nuclear power plant location in the seaside municipality of Choczewo, the cumulative impact of the power engineering infrastructure making it possible to output power from the nuclear power plant into the National Power System, with the impact of the planned power engineering infrastructure making it possible to receive power from offshore wind farms, will be significant. Undersea cable lines, after they cross the seashore, will be routed on a 150 m wide cable bench to the newly designed Polish power system station that will take up the area of approximately 30 ha, while the subscriber stations of the individual investors will have the surface area of over 40 ha.
Polish energy security
The definition of a country’s energy security is not set in stone, it depends on many factors. Nonetheless, energy security is fundamentally important for a country’s security in terms of meeting the demand for electric energy and heat.
The Energy Law Act defines energy security as: “the state of the economy that makes it possible to meet the current and prospective demand of consumers for fuel and energy in a way that is technically and economically justified, while meeting the requirements of environmental protection” (Article 3, section 16). Energy security is, above all, the certainty as to the supply of power of proper quality, meeting the needs of even the most demanding consumers, with diversified possibilities of the transmission system responding to interferences resulting from, e.g. renewable sources or cross-border connections. Irrespective of the kinds of unforeseen situations that may occur outside a nuclear power plant, it must be operating "around the clock”, without interruptions, outputting all of the generated power to the transmission system, guaranteeing strategic security for the administrative centre of the country, urban agglomerations, industrial districts, transport infrastructure, etc.
The construction of the first nuclear power plant and subsequent plants will require the overcoming of various obstacles. The biggest obstacles for the development of nuclear power engineering may include: legislative obstacles, political obstacles, as well as technological and social underdevelopment. Overcoming these obstacles is the top priority in view of the need to mitigate the consequences of the growing environmental crisis. It must be noted, how significant the possibility of placing ourselves within the context of the EU policy is, in particular, since the new approach towards energy security specified by the Regulation 2019/941 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on risk-preparedness in the electricity sector and repealing Directive 2005/89/EC provides the framework for the methods of preventing power engineering crises, preparing for them and managing them. The new approach involves ensuring cooperation between the Member States for the purpose of guaranteeing power supply security. This concerns, most of all, hazards that are related with possible crises due to natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, fuel shortages or terrorist attacks.