Development of small modular reactor technology.

In line with the ORLEN Group’s strategy and ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we invest in low- and zero-carbon, stable and innovative power generation capacities.

ORLEN Synthos Green Energy is a company tasked with preparing and commercialising micro modular reactor (MMR) and small modular reactor (SMR) technologies in Poland, which are among the most efficient, affordable and safe energy generation technologies. The project is an important contribution to ORLEN’s energy diversification efforts that will help enhance energy security and independence for Poland and the wider region.

SMRs are a technology solution that would open up an array of potential synergies for ORLEN. Given the directions of its business growth and investment strategy so far, focused, among other things, on fast-paced expansion of the offshore wind power and solar PV business, SMRs could be a carbon-free alternative to the ORLEN Group’s existing power generation assets.

Generation costs per 1 MWh

The estimated generation costs per MWh of electricity will ultimately be about 30% lower compared with gas-fired generating sources. A single modular reactor of about 300 MWe can reduce emissions by some 0.3 to 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, depending on the type of fuel being replaced (hard coal, lignite, etc.).

Safe technology

Small modular reactors meet the highest standards of safety. The ORLEN Group is set to deploy the BWRX-300 technology developed by GE Hitachi. Almost 30 countries, including the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Estonia and Poland, have signalled support for the technology. Work is most advanced in Canada, where the first BWRX-300 is slated to come online at the Darlington nuclear power plant about 50 km from downtown Toronto in 2028. Modular nuclear reactors comply with requirements that are as stringent as those applied to large-scale nuclear power plants.

  • SMRs are placed approximately 30 metres underground in a sealed vault with water to cool it. This requires a small buffer zone of around 300 to 400 metres, with no interference with nearby buildings or installations, ensuring safer operation and easier siting of reactors.
  • Modular nuclear reactors feature passive safety systems that function according to basic laws of nature, such as gravity, and require no active intervention by an operator and no electrical feedback. BWRX-300 will shut down automatically in the event of an emergency and can remain in a safe state for many days without human intervention.
  • BWRX-300 takes up just 10% of the space needed to accommodate a large-scale nuclear power plant. A complete facility including the reactor fits into a 260 m x 332 m area. The generating unit occupies an area the size of a football field.

Fast facts on SMR in Poland

50% of construction expenditure to be spent in Poland

300 Polish-based companies in the supply chain

2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided per year

Enough electricity to power a city of 150,000 people

SMR - frequently asked questions

Once the ongoing surveys and preliminary consultations with local governments are completed, over the next two years ORLEN Synthos Green Energy will thoroughly analyse the possibility of building the first SMR facility in one of the seven locations: Ostrołęka, Włocławek, Stawy Monowskie, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Nowa Huta, Tarnobrzeg – Stalowa Wola Secial Economic Zone, or Warsaw. Those are the first preferred and most likely options. However, this does not mean that SMRs will be actually built at each of these places. They are now undergoing further geological, environmental and site research. Once their potential is confirmed, the first step will be the initiation of a dialogue with the local communities. On this basis, decisions will be made about implementing a safe and environmentally friendly project.

According to its strategy, ORLEN aims to build its first SMR unit by 2030. However, the location has not yet been selected. First, geological and environmental studies will be carried out on possible sites, followed by the process of obtaining the necessary administrative approvals. Information on the first location will be released once these steps are completed.

  • It will be the BWRX-300 reactor, manufactured by GE Hitachi, an American company with 70 years of experience in nuclear power.
  • Given its relatively small capacity (300 MWe), BWRX-300 is classified as an SMR, or a small modular reactor. It is designed to reduce construction and operation costs compared to other nuclear power generation technologies.
  • The project will employ proven technologies and components, and will use certified nuclear fuel that has already been in production for several years. Recently, Estonia decided to construct a BWRX-300 unit, and around 30 countries are showing varying degrees of interest in the GE Hitachi technology.

This kind of plant is small in size – it takes up about 10% of the land needed for a large nuclear power project. An SMR plant, consisting of the reactor building, turbine and generator building, control building, radioactive waste building and the turbine and generator repair facilities, will take up only an area the size of a football pitch.

  • SMRs meet the highest safety standards, which are as stringent as those applicable to large nuclear power plants.
  • SMRs feature passive safety systems that function according to basic laws of nature, such as gravity, and do not require any action to be taken by an operator or a machine. In the event of an emergency, the BWRX-300 will shut down automatically and can remain in a safe state for many days without human control.
  • SMRs are placed approximately 30 metres underground in a sealed vault with water to cool it. This requires a small buffer zone of around 300 to 400 metres, with no interference with nearby buildings or installations, ensuring safer operation and easier siting of reactors.
  • It is worth noting that there are already examples of reactors being built or operating near towns and settlements, such as the:
    • McGuire Nuclear Station, located about 27 km from Charlotte, North Carolina (USA),
    • Nuclear Generating Station in Darlington, Canada, just five km from Oshawa.

  • The Chernobyl disaster was a result of human error, that is tests carried out on a nuclear unit which was not suitable for the purpose. Such units are no longer used in new facilities. The deaths during the disaster were largely caused by an incompetently handled rescue operation that did not meet safety standards.
  • ORLEN Synthos Green Energy is building SMRs which are based on state-of-the-art technologies. These types of generating units are fully safe.
  • SMRs to be built in Poland will be a source of numerous benefits. They will create jobs, not only for engineers and technicians, and will open up prospects for residents of the areas where the plants will be located, with job and contract opportunities for construction sector workers, transport, security, catering and other companies. SMRs generate electricity and heat that is more cost-efficient than energy from coal- and gas-fired plants. Plus, they can contribute to improving the quality of life, as they produce zero harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

  • The design of today's SMRs, especially the BWRX-300, minimises adverse environmental impacts. No waste is released into the air or water, and all by-products are safely stored on the nuclear project site within the boundaries of the fence enclosing the site.
  • After the plant is decommissioned, the site is planned to be restored to a ‘green field’ condition within 10-20 years. Any radioactive materials will be transported to a dedicated storage facility.

  • Zero-carbon energy generation that is independent of weather conditions will be an alternative to fossil fuels. Being a zero-carbon, cost-efficient and reliable source of energy, small nuclear reactors offer a solution to many of the challenges faced by the world, including Poland, during times of war and limited access to commodities.
  • A single 300 MW unit can meet the energy needs of about 300-350 thousand households. The estimated cost per MWh of SMR-generated electricity is expected to be many times lower than that of gas-fired generation.
  • Currently, 82% of the heat generated in Poland comes from coal-fired plants. The heat industry is set to undergo a radical transformation in the coming years. SMRs will be a viable solution in the process of its energy transition and decarbornisation.
  • It is impossible to rely entirely on renewable energy sources for power generation since they are susceptible to weather conditions. While it is easier and cost-effective to install solar panels on house rooftops or large solar PV farms, the critical factors are the capacity and the volumes of energy that such facilities can produce.