A tentative agreement reached by a group of Polish companies this week will move the country a step closer to building its first nuclear plant.Polish news agency PAP quoted unnamed sources as saying negotiations among utilities Polska Grupa Energetyczna, Tauron and Enea, as well as mining company KGHM Polsaka Miedz, have reached a point where a contract on joint ownership of the plant could emerge as early as September. The agreement would come a year after the companies signed an initial letter of intent to buy into a joint company tasked with building the plant, according to the Warsaw Voice. Operation of the first unit is envisioned in 2024.With the largest reserves in the European Union, Poland currently generates about 90 percent of its power from coal. A plan to expand and diversify its power generation adopted last year by state-owned PGE would source 36 percent of the utility's power from 6 gigawatts of new nuclear generation by 2035, according to the World Nuclear Association. Aiming to build two multi-unit plants, PGE is exploring sites in Zarnowiec, Choczewo and Gaski. As early as 2009, reactor manufacturers including Areva, GE Hitachi, Westinghouse and Kepco expressed interest in bidding on the project.
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Poland has the largest mineable reserves of hard coal in Europe due to (comparably) low labor rates, plus meaningful amounts of lignite. Germany has the largest reserves of lignite (Braunkohle) and is by far the world's largest electricity producer using that highly CO2-intensive source. Germany also has larger hard coal resources, but is in the process of closing the last two (heavily subsidized and deep) mines.