Poland simplifies investment process in nuclear, gas and petroleum sectors


With nuclear projects, both traditional large power plants and modular reactors (SMRs), on the rise, the Polish government has adopted a bill to shorten and simplify the investment process in the nuclear sector.

Reducing the number of administrative approvals

The draft law, which is now under consideration of the lower house of Polish parliament (Sejm), aims to introduce a formula for assessing the environmental impact of nuclear projects under a special procedure. This will exempt nuclear projects from having to obtain an environmental permit. A condition for the exemption is that the Council of Ministers must issue a decree authorising that a given project benefits from a special environmental assessment procedure. This will only apply to projects where there are individual circumstances justifying the immediate implementation of the investment. In addition, before issuing the decree, the Council of Ministers will be expected to investigate the transboundary environmental effects of the project, all adverse impact on environmental objectives set forth by water law, and alternatives to the project if a Natura 2000 site is likely to be affected.

Principles of the special environmental assessment procedure

Once a nuclear project has been granted an exemption, the developer should contact the General Director for Environmental Protection (GDEP) and provide information on the project (e.g. a schedule of works and a description of the expected environmental impact), which will enable the GDEP to issue a decision determining the scope of the environmental assessment. With this decision, the developer can then prepare the documents setting out measures that can be applied to avoid, prevent, limit or compensate for and monitor environmental impacts. These documents will then be submitted to the authority responsible for permit-related matters, with building or water permits being the relevant examples, and the project implementation conditions will be agreed upon with the GDEP during the procedure for obtaining these permits. The GDEP is expected to make a significant contribution to the approval procedures since permits for a nuclear project (e.g. building or water permits) will only be issued if the GDEP approves the implementation conditions.

Environmental NGOs in the procedure

Neither the decision (on the scope of the environmental assessment) nor the approval of the GDEP (on the project implementation conditions) can be subject to appeal. Environmental NGOs, on the other hand, will be able to challenge (before second-instance authorities or courts) permits issued in connection with the nuclear project (e.g. building or water permits), provided that this will be justified by their statutes, and that they have been active in the field of environmental protection for at least 12 months prior to the date of initiation of the permit-related procedure.

Other strategic investments

The special environmental assessment procedure will also apply to other projects that are defined in the draft law as investments of strategic nature. These include the exploration and prospecting or extraction of mineral and hydrocarbon deposits, a terminal for the regasification of LNG, electric power transmission networks and certain investments in the petroleum sector.

What comes next?

After the legislative procedure in the Sejm is concluded, the bill will be sent to the Senate (upper house of Polish parliament). Upon completion of the legislative procedure in the parliament, the bill will be signed by the President and, in the case of a special environmental assessment procedure, will be enacted into law within 14 days after its publication in the Journal of Laws.

For more information on legislative developments and opportunities in the Polish energy sector, contact your CMS client partner or these local CMS experts: Piotr Ciołkowski, Partner, and Karol Jaworecki, Senior Associate, Warsaw.