Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with TVN24

2 November 2022

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: An American company, Westinghouse Electric Company, has been selected to build the first nuclear power plant in Poland. They’ve been working very hard to make it possible, not only you, but a lot of people in the administration. So what does it mean?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Kasia, thank you for having me here this evening. What does the selection of Westinghouse mean for Poland? This has been not a process just this year. This has been more than a decade of engagement between our government and the Polish government, and private sector actors to come up with the best energy alternatives for the future of the Polish people. And I want to congratulate the government of Prime Minister Morawiecki for running a rigorous, tough process in which tough questions were asked of each of the competitors in this, so that we had to prove ourselves in terms of the safety for the Polish people regarding what we built here, in terms of the sustainability for the Polish people.  I’m pleased to report that the Westinghouse project will result in a diminution – or not having – 26 million tons of CO2 emissions every year. That’s what will not be in the air, thanks to the three reactors that are being created. And in terms of the financing because we have various financing alternatives that we’ve presented to the government of Poland. And we …

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: What did you decide on the details so far?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, that is going to be subject to further commercial negotiations. Between PEJ, the Polish company side of this, and Westinghouse, but various US government government financing alternatives have been offered by the US Export Import Bank in terms of debt financing, and the US Development Finance Corporation will also be offering up financing possibilities.  So this is a win. This is a win for the special friendship between America and Poland at this very important time in terms of the security of our people.  Kasia, when I say security, I talk about indivisible security between our two countries in which military to military is important, but it’s not enough. Energy Security also matters because Russia has weaponized energy. One of the reasons why Russia’s neighbors fear it so much is because Russia has weaponized energy and a very good response is this decision by the Polish government.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: So this is the response for Putin’s energy blackmail, right?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Weaponizing energy – using energy as a form of blackmail that Russia has been doing against its neighbors.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: What makes this offer of Westinghouse so special that it has the endorsement of the American government – because the Secretary of State Antony Blinken has just released this statement:  “We welcome the decision by the government of Poland to select Westinghouse.” So what makes this offer so special?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, this is an agreement between private sector actors, but also it’s an agreement and the result of negotiations between governments.  Secretary Blinken has endorsed the strategic partnership that this meshes together, but Vice President Kamala Harris through her personal visit to Warsaw in March, and then two subsequent phone calls with the Prime Minister has been fully engaged to articulate how this deepens and broadens the American Polish strategic relationship. Because, again, a healthy multi-dimensional relationship is what we seek between America and Poland. And we have great military to military collaboration. But this brings energy security as one of the core parts of our collaboration.  The technology that has been chosen has very important safety features. For example, there’s something called passive safety that the Westinghouse technology offers. I know your father is a professor of nuclear energy, so you probably know some of this, Kasia, but passive safety means that cooling doesn’t require operator engagement. It’s automatic, and that’s an important feature that is unique to the Westinghouse technology that is being offered. In addition, with this choice by the Polish government, the US Department of Energy will be setting up a center for nuclear energy and clean energy in Poland.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: The training center.

Ambassador Brzezinski: A training center to help advance workforce training in Poland. Poland, has such a history of great science.  It’s the land of Nicholas Copernicus, Marie Curie Sklodowska.  The technology science, physics, engineering heritage of this great country is obvious. And now it will have a nuclear energy industry. And it’s important to say that the region of Central Europe is experiencing a nuclear renaissance with Poland, with this decision, being the first out of the gate.  It puts Poland in a very important position vis-a-vis its neighbors in terms of how it can assist develop a region wide nuclear energy system.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: So, this is just the beginning. So what will happen next?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Next is the culmination of the commercial agreement between the Polish private sector entity, PEJ, and Westinghouse that will go through a number of different specifications as it pertains to what commercially will be the result of this agreement. Then there will be steps in terms of engineering, workforce training, and just further meshing together of …

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: So we are talking about years.

Ambassador Brzezinski: We’re talking about years, but we aim to have the first nuclear reactor in place and operational within ten or so years, which gives us an answer to the open question, Kasia that we had: which was how is Poland going to power itself? How will future generations be able to power the economy and the society that we want for them? Now we have the answer in terms of nuclear energy and specific projects that will, thanks to today’s decision, get underway.  It is clean; it is safe; and it is secure and brings our two countries together. There is no replacement. In terms of the American Polish special friendship. We have the closest friendship and alliance. We will be the ones who immediately come to you when there is a crisis. I think this is a very appropriate selection.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: … Huge money.  Money talks. What would you say to people who have doubts that the US administration the US government may turn the blind eye on the problems with democracy and the free press, the rule of law? Because you know, business is business.

Ambassador Brzezinski: The way the US government engages with the Polish government is with really a view that these different priorities, security, business to business relationship, democracy, rule of law, they’re all interdependent. Business flourishes in a legally transparent and legally certain environment where law is supreme to power. And all of us are working on our democracies to strengthen and protect our democracies. As President Biden very genuinely said when he was here and more, we’re working on our own challenges in America. Poland is as well.  These things are interdependent with each other and one is not subordinate to another.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: How about this possible deal with Korea?  Because the Prime Minister mentioned today that the government supports also this possible deal with Korea. The letter of intent was signed two days ago by Deputy Prime Minister Sasin. …

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, my understanding is that that is now under pending litigation in US courts. So it’s not appropriate for me to talk about that at length. I’m really here to talk about the selection of the American technology today, which  will be the first nuclear reactor in Poland. And it will be precedent setting and our technology is the best technology in the world. And we approached this competition with humility. We have a close relationship: American and Poland.  There is a lot at stake in that relationship. But we wanted our technology to stand on its own two feet, and we weren’t going to link it to anything else. And the government of Poland and Prime Minister Morawiecki ran a rigorous, tough process. Anyone who knows me knows that this has been answering phone calls day and night, bringing over our best experts to engage with the Polish side to answer each and every question the government, the Minister of Energy had.  It was a rigorous process in which we linked it to nothing else. And I’m proud and humbled by the selection of the American technology. And, you know, as we say, in America, “the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.” You’ll see thousands of Polish jobs created, jobs in nuclear energy. You’ll see a center for nuclear technology established in Poland that links to American University and degree programs.  How awesome linking our sciences together and linking what is happening in Poland in terms of nuclear technology to our national labs.  The US Department of Energy runs eighteen national labs, including one on nuclear energy, and that linkage will mesh together people in science in this area of energy.  I can’t think of anything more important in terms of our friendship.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: There’s a popular saying “not in my backyard.” So given the memory of Chernobyl here in Poland, how to convince local people especially that the nuclear plant, which is about to be built here in Poland and the location has been chosen as far as I know it’s in Choczewo. How to help convince them that the nuclear plant is safe?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I think that you have to just look at independent assessments of what technology on offer in terms of nuclear energy is really considered to be the safest.  The American technology is really the standard. Again, one of the unique features of the Westinghouse technology that was selected today by the government of Poland is its passive safety system, in which cooling begins regardless of independent operator engagement.  There’s an automaticity to the safety of this system. And that’s part of a broader set of safety standards that come with this technology. It’s a great question. Safety as it pertains to nuclear energy is something that in America we test and we exercise all the time.  What will be built in Poland is the kind of system that you would see in the state of Georgia in the United States. And where Westinghouse is building elsewhere in the world. Fifty percent of the nuclear power plants in the world, use Westinghouse technology. There’s a reason for that.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: Are you going to go for example to a place like Chorczewo and meet with the people who are afraid and are dealing with those fears?

Ambassador Brzezinski: This project is going to bring tremendous dimensions of economy to where it’s built. We’re talking about thousands of Polish jobs.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: But also talking about fear.

Ambassador Brzezinski: We’re talking about fear, but the Westinghouse technology is the safest system and that’s why it was selected. You have to understand also there is fear of nuclear energy elsewhere.  We have to answer those questions in the United States and elsewhere where Westinghouse technology is deployed. I feel absolutely certain that any question we face in Poland, will have been asked and addressed fulsomely in so many different ways in the United States where we are using and deploying this technology and elsewhere in the world.