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A project never finished – The abandoned Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant

David Goran

The Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant was supposed to be the first nuclear power plant in Poland. Plans for the nuclear plant were approved on December 9th, 1972, and the location chosen was the village of Kartoszyno on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast.

It was supposed to be the country's first nuclear power station but it was never completed because of a public outcry after the Chernobyl disaster. Source

It was supposed to be the country’s first nuclear power station but it was never completed because of a public outcry after the Chernobyl disaster. Source

The location of the plant was chosen after several years of hydrological, seismological and demographic research commissioned for the specific purpose of determining the most suitable location. A site was located in the north of the country near the Baltic Sea, about 50 km northwest of Gdańsk, just to the south of its namesake village Żarnowiec, adjacent to Lake Żarnowiec which was to be used for cooling.

The plant was to be the centerpiece of a dedicated industrial and economic zone with over 700 buildings and an electric railway. Source

The plant was to be the centerpiece of a dedicated industrial and economic zone with over 700 buildings and an electric railway. Source

Construction began in 1982 but with the onset of Chernobyl in 1986 and continuous protest into the early 1990’s, completion of this facility never occurred and it has been abandoned ever since. The plant was planned to occupy 70 acres with four blocks equipped with reactors, 79 other buildings made up the reactor area with a total of 630 buildings compromising the whole Nuclear Power Plant.

Unfinished remains of main building of Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant. Source

Unfinished remains of the main building of Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant. Source

There was some official public discussion concerning the localization of the power plant. Ecological organizations were the most active participants and the protests escalated only after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The protests forced the government to hold a local referendum concerning the plant. An initial decision was taken in 1987, but was postponed for political reasons until the local government elections in 1990.

The entire project was officially cancelled on September 4th, 1990. Source

The entire project was officially cancelled on September 4th, 1990. Source

 

The plant was only half-constructed when builders abandoned the site. Source

The plant was only half-constructed when builders abandoned the site. Source

The entire project was officially cancelled by the Council of Ministers on September 4th, 1990, at which time the first reactor block was 40% complete.

Cloakroom halls. Source

Cloakroom halls. Source

44% of the planned budget was already spent, but further expenses unavoidable even if the construction was halted increased the total expenditure to about 84% of the budget. After the construction was halted, a large amount of specialized equipment was immediately rendered useless. The total amount of money recovered was about $6 million, compared to the estimated expenditures of more than $500 million.

Reclaimed by nature - 25 years after it was abandoned. Source

Reclaimed by nature – 25 years after it was abandoned. Source

The pumped-storage reservoir now operates as the Żarnowiec Hydro Power Plant, the largest pumped-storage plant in Poland. Its operation causes variations in the lake’s water level, causing the erosion of soil on its shores.