Infrastructure investment vs. nuclear power
A different approach to nuclear power
Unlike many other European countries, Poland does not yet have a single nuclear power plant. The first attempts to implement nuclear technology in our country were made in the 1980s (Żarnowiec NPP), but construction work started at that time was never completed. However, today we are witnessing a rapid acceleration towards nuclear power, as evidenced by the fact that up to a dozen different nuclear power projects are currently under consideration.
Nuclear power plants: the regulatory environment
Due to the fact that the construction of a nuclear power plant in Poland is a recurring topic of public debate, current legislation, aided by obligations assumed at the level of the European Union and international law, generally deals with nuclear technology in a comprehensive manner. As a member of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), Poland is obliged to transpose the regulations developed by this organisation into its national legal system (primarily in the form of directive transposition). This obligation applies irrespective of whether a particular Member State actually invests in nuclear power or not.
Nuclear power investments in view of Polish legislation
Of the national nuclear power legislation, the Atomic Law Act of 29 November 2000 and the Special Nuclear Act (the Act of 29 June 2011 on the preparation and implementation of investments in nuclear power facilities and associated investments) should be mentioned first. As far as the implementation of investments is concerned, the latter (as the name suggests) is of key importance. It is also highly relevant as it underwent significant changes in April this year.
A new approach to nuclear power investment
In a nutshell, the lawmakers decided to change the order of obtaining key approvals for nuclear investments. Previously, the first decision required was an environmental permit, which then opened up the next stages of the process, with a “decision-in-principle” being required at a later stage as an additional project approval prior to final implementation. The amendment moved the decision-in-principle stage to the very beginning of the process. This change appears to be beneficial, as it provides potential investors with an important confirmation of the investment process at the outset rather than halfway through, after initial costs have been incurred.
The Special Act as a boost for infrastructural development
Significantly, however, the above Special Act applies not only to the construction of nuclear power facilities, but also to the related infrastructure as a whole. According to the Act, “accompanying investments”, which were previously understood as investments in the construction or extension of transmission grids necessary for the evacuation of power from a nuclear power plant, or other investments necessary for the construction or proper operation of a nuclear power facility, may also be implemented. The amendment has redefined them by explicitly giving examples of eligible projects, including investments in distribution or transmission grids, but also, for example, gas, storage, water supply, road and telecommunications infrastructure. This list can therefore be seen as a guideline for investors as to which investments are considered “accompanying” and can be implemented under the Special Act.
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Date: 2 June 2023