“The Strategic Benefits of the Nuclear Deal”
Ambassador Mark Brzezinski
Open Eyes Economy Summit
November 22, 2022
ICE Krakow Congress Center
Dzien Dobry. It is an honor to be here, thank you to the Open Eyes Economy Summit Program Council for having me and for organizing this special event. To the leaders in this room – from government officials to business representatives, CEOs, and academics – the innovative ideas you discuss today will help us usher in a better tomorrow.
And this year’s theme – credibility – is what our future is based on.
The economic credibility of a country, its institutions, and companies are how people make financial decisions. When things are going well, investments and household spending will follow; it’s all connected.
Which is why I am so proud that the United States is working with Poland to provide a new level of economic credibility and economic stability for both of our countries through our partnership on civil nuclear energy. Several weeks ago, Poland officially selected the U.S. government and Westinghouse for the first part of its nuclear project.
We are now working on detailed plans to construct Poland’s first nuclear power plant at a site in northern Poland. This links Poland and the United States together in a 100-year partnership and it will create thousands of jobs.
Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated the deal by spelling out a few of the benefits this project brings. She said, in part: We can strengthen European energy security, deepen the U.S.-Poland strategic relationship, and address the climate crisis, all at the same time.
These are topics that I’d like to discuss in detail, along with the economic security that is associated with a project of this scale.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in our shared future, using safe and reliable nuclear technology.
First, let’s talk about energy security. Russia’s war against Ukraine and its weaponization of energy are significant challenges to global energy security. Europe has an opportunity to break free from Russia’s energy chokehold.
Poland has been leading the way and serving as an example to others in the region by diversifying its energy sources and suppliers. Nuclear power can be at the center of this transition. And why is that?
Well, fuel storage capacity is one huge benefit of nuclear power and will ensure Poland is not dependent on malign actors. You’ll be able to store years’ worth of fuel on site. And when fuel is needed, it’s much easier and faster to import than traditional energy sources. Unlike fossil fuels, years of nuclear fuel can be inexpensively transported quickly and safely by land, sea, and air.
Plus, these plants can operate 24/7, making them the ideal zero-carbon complement to wind and solar.
On to the second topic, strengthening the strategic relationship with the United States. We already have such a strong partnership in security and defense. And on the darkest of days, we know we can count on each other. The tragic incident in Przewodów last week is proof.
The top levels of American leadership immediately engaged with Polish leadership after a missile struck near the border with Ukraine, taking the lives of two innocent Poles. President Biden spoke with President Duda and offered our unwavering support.
No matter what the final results of the investigation determine, it’s clear that Russia alone bears responsibility for this tragic incident. Putin’s brutal war against innocent people cannot be justified, so before I continue, I want to emphasize that our condolences and sympathy go out to the Polish families. And our thoughts are always with the millions of Ukrainians suffering as a result of Russia’s indiscriminate violence.
I take great solace in knowing that every step of the way the United States and Poland are linked in our efforts to respond to this recent tragedy and whatever else may arise. We remain united in our support of Ukraine for as long as it takes. Poland truly is one of our most trusted allies.
This nuclear project brings us even closer. Poland is trusting a portion of its energy security to the United States. We do not take this trust for granted. This is a responsibility we take very seriously.
And in so many ways this is just the first step. Our hope is to support Poland as it becomes a hub for civil nuclear technology.
Poland has selected Westinghouse for its first three reactors. In the coming months we are hopeful the government will select Westinghouse to build all six reactors and choose Bechtel as the lead contractor. Longer term, we plan to work closely with Poland on emerging nuclear technology such as small modular reactors that will soon be piloted in the United States.
Let me also tell you – we believe in this technology so much that we are building it in our country too. Westinghouse and Bechtel are in the process of completing two reactors in the U.S. state of Georgia. We have dozens of large reactors like the AP-1000 operating in the United States and we are extending their lifecycles so they can continue to play a critical role in the U.S. energy mix for decades to come.
Now to the third benefit, economic security. We are investing in Poland’s future.
Our experience building this nuclear power plant together will directly contribute to Poland’s prosperity. We are experiencing a bit of a nuclear renaissance in this part of Europe, and Poland is the first one out of the gate to build this generation of reactors. Polish companies will obviously be well positioned to be the first choice for future nuclear projects in Europe since Polish workers will have the best know how for building these cutting-edge reactors!
And because we are so committed to Poland, the United States Department of Energy is offering a way to get workers and young people up to speed. We are opening a Regional Training Center for Nuclear Energy and Clean Energy Technology in Poland. Planning for this facility is underway right now.
We intend to run courses in person and online to help build capacity and interest in the nuclear power industry. And this isn’t just for nuclear engineers. A variety of technical specialists, IT experts, people from the broader power sector, all can learn how to apply their existing experience at a nuclear power plant.
There are also plans to work with universities to develop curriculum. This will help prepare the next generation for the many long-term employment opportunities that are available through this project and others like it.
In a time when so many career fields are becoming obsolete, nuclear has staying power. The plant will be initially licensed for 60 years and may even be relicensed for decades beyond that. Workers’ children can follow in their footsteps.
And to young people, I can promise you one more thing – nuclear energy is cool. So cool it’s going to the Moon! Westinghouse, the Department of Energy, and NASA have teamed up to help power missions to space using nuclear energy. By 2024 this technology will land on the Moon as part of the Artemis space program!
But the coolest part of it all – and something that the next generation can get behind and my fourth point – is the fact that nuclear power can save our planet. This project can address climate change on a large scale.
When all six reactors are up and running it will result in 52 million tons of avoided CO2 emissions every year. That’s five billion tons over the life of the project. And that’s just this project – we hope to do a lot more work on nuclear power in and outside of Poland.
I know that’s hard to visualize so try this on for size. One Uranium fuel pellet, which is about the size of a gummy bear provides as much energy as one ton of coal, or 149 gallons of oil.
Something this small can power Poland and save our planet at the same time.
Let me underscore that an independent, prosperous Poland is in the United States national interest. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for this historic deal.
Thank you, Poland, for putting your trust in us, for investing in this relationship, and for your ongoing partnership. We won’t let you down.