WARSAW, May 9 (Reuters) - Poland, one of only a handful of European nations still pursuing plans to build nuclear power plants, will select the provider of the technology for its first facility this year and hopes it will start operating in 2023, a government official said.
In an attempt to reduce its reliance on highly-polluting coal and provide energy for its expanding economy, Poland seeks to start a 3 gigawatt plant and double its capacity by 2030.
The process of choosing the nuclear technology has so far attracted the interest of American-Japanese group GE Hitachi , France’s Areva and Westinghouse, a U.S unit of Japan’s Toshiba.
But it has been hampered by bureaucratic delays.
“I am convinced that the contract’s engineer will be selected this year,” deputy Treasury Minister Zdzislaw Gawlik told a parliamentary committee assessing the advancement of Poland’s nuclear programme.
“We assume the start of the first block will take place at the end of 2023,” he said.
The project’s manager PGE, Poland’s top utility, said in March the tender for nuclear technology would be launched within two months, but has provided no information since then.
The government’s plenipotentiary for the nuclear programme, Hanna Trojanowska, said Poland, the European Union’s largest eastern member, would implement all regulations required to set up a fixed legal framework for the process by the end of June.
Trojanowska also said the country’s environment protection fund (NFOSiGW) would launch a tender later this year for the construction of a new nuclear waste facility that is to join an already operating site in Rozen, launched in 1961.
“This is an extremely difficult issue, because as the case of nuclear energy finds some understanding among people, the issue of nuclear waste, despite our 50 years of experience in this field, unfortunately does not,” Trojanowska said. (Editing by David Cowell)