WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish and U.S. officials signed an agreement Wednesday in Warsaw to move forward with the construction of Poland’s first nuclear power plant as part of an effort by the Central European nation to move away from polluting fossil fuels.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the deal to build the plant at the Lubiatowo-Kopalino site in the Pomerania region near the Baltic Sea the beginning of a new chapter for Poland, and described nuclear energy as a stable and clean energy source.
“The only clean, stable energy source that is technologically proven and verified in terms of safety is nuclear energy, which is having its big day today,” he said at the ceremony.
Morawiecki’s government had announced last year that it had chosen the U.S. as its partner for the project.
A consortium made up of Westinghouse and Bechtel signed the agreement with the Polish state-owned utility overseeing the nuclear program, Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe (PEJ).
The planned site is about 280 kilometers (175 miles) from the border with Germany, which shut its last remaining nuclear reactors in April. Last year, the four German states closest to Poland said they were opposed to the Polish plan.
Many environmentalists traditionally oppose nuclear energy, and in Poland some argue that the initial cost is so high and that it takes so long to develop that it makes more sense to invest in renewable energies. Still, opposition in Poland to the plan has not been high.
Even the Greens party is divided on the matter. That is a reflection of how fears of climate change have persuaded some environmentalists around the world to embrace nuclear power as a solution, because it doesn’t involve the burning of fossil fuels.
Poland is planning to spend $40 billion to build two nuclear power plants with three reactors each, the last one to be launched in 2043. The deal with the U.S. is for the first three reactors of the Pomerania plant, which officials say should start producing electricity in 2033.
Poland has also signed agreements with South Korea for the construction of a second nuclear power plant as it moves forward with its nuclear energy plans.
Poland has planned for decades to build nuclear power plants to replace its aging coal-fired plants in a country with some of the worst air pollution in Europe.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its use of energy to put economic and political pressure on European nations added urgency to Poland’s search for alternative energy sources.