Environmental protection was not on the list of priorities of the communist Polish authorities, which ruled in 1944-1989. During the years of intense industrialization, the subject of air and water poisoning was known only to a small group of scientists. In turn, environmental organizations operated practically throughout this period. However, they functioned to a limited extent, not exposing themselves to dignitaries .
In the 1970s, the financial condition of the state was good, mainly due to taking out foreign loans. In 1971, the decision was made to build the first Polish nuclear power plant. By 2000, it was planned to build a few more plants of this type. In 1972 its location was established in the northern part of Pomerania, on Lake Żarnowieckie, on the land of the village of Kartoszyno. The future nuclear power plant - next to the pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant that was being built at that time - was to be a pillar of the new industrial area. The plans for the development of nuclear energy that were outlined at that time of inception were unrealistic .
The decision to build the Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant (EJŻ) was made by the Council of Ministers only on January 18, 1982, one month after the imposition of martial law (until July 22, 1983) . The construction work started in spring. However, this next great socialist construction was not accompanied by enthusiastic moods. During the martial law period (shortages of everyday products, repressions) hardly anyone was interested in it. The construction plans, however, aroused opposition from the very beginning from part of the society, especially the population living near the power plant itself .
The first protests against the construction of the EJŻ took place at the end of 1984 when work on the construction of the main building of the power plant began. The organizer was the Polish Ecological Club. However, they could not take too harsh forms and mainly boiled down to creating protest lists sent to the authorities and collecting information on the potential ecological effects of the construction. Such actions did not have a greater impact on society .
In the following years, with the development of the anti-communist opposition and the growing economic crisis, the activities of Polish environmental organizations began to take on a political dimension. Moreover, on April 26, 1986, at the nuclear power plant named after W.I. Lenin, a catastrophe took place in Chernobyl (Ukraine) - there was a steam and hydrogen explosion that destroyed the reactor building. From that moment, Poles became interested in what was actually built on the shores of Lake Żarnowieckie. On the one hand, there is an increase in the ecological awareness of a part of the society, on the other - the fear of this investment is spreading. There was a clear escalation of the conflict around the EJŻ    .
The first active group in the protest campaign was Ecological Movement of St. Francis of Assisi (established in 1981 in Krakow, two years after John Paul II proclaimed Saint Francis the patron saint of ecologists). From 1986 to 1988, this organization organized a series of lectures presenting the potential risks associated with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Moreover, the inhabitants of Pomerania were particularly active - after all, they would be the first victims of a possible catastrophe.
In this context, it is worth mentioning the activities of local scientific and ecological communities. Gdańsk Ecological Forum, which together with the Gdańsk Scientific Society organized scientific sessions (mini-conferences) devoted to, inter alia, the ecological, economic, and social aspects of the development of nuclear energy. Since 1988, the Forum has also organized public resistance campaigns (demonstrations, sending letters to the authorities, throwing leaflets in the Tri-City), aimed at forcing the authorities to abandon the continuation of the construction of EJŻ and discontinue the development of nuclear energy in Poland. This group started a wave of street protests, which were joined by nationwide organizations of a pacific character, such as the "Freedom and Peace" movement (WiP; founded in 1985). Their important feature, distinguishing them from most environmental movements, was their illegal and radical nature. These groups were able to include part of the society in the resistance movement. It was not difficult at the time, because Poles (especially young people) eagerly used any excuse to protest against the communist government .
On February 6 - April 5, 1989, the Polish Round Table Talks took place, including negotiations within the framework of the Ecology Round Table Subgroup. The government initiated talks with the banned trade union "Solidarity" and other opposition groups in an attempt to defuse growing social unrest. Among others, activists of the Polish Ecological Club and activists from the Ecological Movement of St. Francis of Assisi participated in the Round Table . The only controversial issue during the meetings was the construction of the EJŻ. There was even a protocol of disagreement on this matter (the only one at the Round Table).
At the beginning of 1989, a WiP congress was held in Poznań, during which the "nationwide campaign against nuclear energy" was announced. Its main assumption was protest actions organized in every city where there was a movement  . On February 24, 1989, at Długi Targ (square in the old town) in Gdańsk, a meeting of many groups took place - from the Confederation of Independent Poland, the “Twe Twa” Movement, to the anarchist Alternative Society Movement. The WiP movement prepared several banners for the demonstration with the slogans: "Down with Żarnowiec - we want to live" or "Chernobyl ass". The protest petition was read. About 1,000 people took part in the demonstration. The first anti-nuclear march did not go far, as the demonstrators were blocked by a cordon of Motorized Reserves of the Citizens' Militia (ZOMO; paramilitary-police formations during the communist era in Poland). The demonstration was considered successful, which encouraged the organizers to intensify their activities. At this meeting, it was decided to meet at the same place every Friday at 4pm until the government's plans were knocked out. The choice of the date was not accidental: according to the law in force at the time, the militia could detain the protesters for 48 hours, later the court would have to charge them. However, this rarely happened, so if you were detained on a Friday afternoon, you would go out on a Sunday evening in the worst case, without any problems with absence from school, university or work   .
More and more participants took part in illegal demonstrations in the Old Town of Gdańsk every week. They chanted the following slogans: "Żarnowiec tomb!" Or "A better tractor than a reactor!". Some of them took the form of happenings. This was the case on March 10, 1989, when some of the organizers dressed up in animal masks (hare, fox, cat), others in white aprons. In addition, people put on masks with the image of Lenin, a cardboard nuclear reactor was built, a "mutant match" was organized, etc. On April 7, after the militia were called to disperse, the youth began chanting: "Change the record!" and throwing vinyl records at the police cordon. On April 28, a delegation of protesters met with a representative of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR; communist party, which ruled the Polish People's Republic as a one-party state). The result of the meeting was the consent to hold a public debate among supporters and opponents of the construction of the power plant. Activists decided it was a success because the authorities recognized them as a group .
On May 19, 1989, the promised debate took place at the International Press and Book Club at Długi Targ (Gdańsk). The discussion covered issues related to the safe operation of a nuclear power plant, economic issues related to the construction of the power plant, and the issue of environmental protection during its operation. There was a sharp exchange of views, but the meeting itself did not bring any results. At the end of the meeting, representatives of the Anti-Atomic Federation, WiP, Alternative Society Movement, FMW, Confederation of Independent Poland, Ecological Movement of St. Francis of Assisi, "I Prefer To Be" Movement presented negative positions on the construction of EJŻ .
The last Friday demonstration before the summer holidays was held on June 16, 1989. Weekly meetings were suspended during the summer break in school. In general, even then, demonstrations became less and less numerous, because people who protested mainly for political, not environmental reasons, stopped coming  . It was on June 4, 1989, that communism ended in Poland - the first parliamentary elections after World War II - partially free - were held.
After the start of the school year (in Poland, the beginning of September), the organization of demonstrations in Gdańsk resumed. Generally, thanks to the involvement of the WiP Movement, the fight against the construction of the EJŻ has acquired a national dimension. On October 31, a group of WiP participants from all over Poland and the youth from the "Twe-Twa" Movement started a several-day anti-nuclear picket in the capital (in Warsaw) in front of the seat of the Council of Ministers. The participants of the picket handed out leaflets informing passers-by about the purpose of the protest. On November 3, there was an ecological rally in front of the Ministry of Industry and on November 9, a demonstration at the end of the picket in front of the headquarters of the Council of Ministers. During those days, the government postponed the decision on the future of nuclear energy .
On September 12, 1989, the first Polish government was established after the fall of communism. The fact that the continuation of the construction of the power plant is also taken into account by the post-communist authorities, the public could see on November 15, when two reactors made according to the Soviet technology, intended for Żarnowiec were delivered to the Gdynia port from Czechoslovakia (via combined road, river - Danube and sea transport - from the port of Constanta in Romania). The "Freedom and Peace" Movement together with the FMW, the "Twe-Twa" Movement, the Greens Federation and the "I Prefer To Be" Movement organized a picket in front of the Container Terminal in Gdynia the next day against the delivery of reactors. One terminal corridor was occupied and picketers spread out sleeping bags and blankets. Outside, banners with the following slogans: "We do not want Chernobyl", "New government - old mistakes?", "Żarnowiec, a tomb of the economy," etc. The Port branch of the trade union Solidarity called on its members to boycott and not to participate in the transshipment .
The activists faced the harsh reality of the place: the shipping terminal covers an area of several hectares with at least a few entrance gates. They helped activists, among others, by local residents who brought food and let them bathe in their apartments. After a few days of blockades and after negotiations with the terminal authorities, a consensus was reached on the presence of the demonstrators: they received hot drinks from the canteen, were admitted to the terminal area (near the gates), and they could also observe the gates from the offices of some officers .
On November 19, 1989, 13 participants of the picket undertook a ten-day hunger strike. It ended during a demonstration that took place on November 30 in Gdańsk. The participants of the picket and hunger strike presented demands to stop the construction of a nuclear power plant and called for a local referendum on EJŻ. On that day, activists of the "Freedom and Peace" Movement in Warsaw hung a banner "Żarnowiec is a grave for the other world" in the Sejm (the lower house of the national parliament). Support for starving youth was expressed on November 27 by the Commission for Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of the Citizens' Committee under the chairman of NSZZ "Solidarity" Lech Wałęsa .
In December 1989, resistance to the construction of the power plant took its most dramatic form. On December 7, five people (four men and one woman) undertook an indefinite fast. Later, other people joined them. Both Lech Wałęsa and the Archbishop of Gdańsk were against the hunger strike. Three days later, a ten-day information picket began at the Gdynia Główna railway station, during which 185,550 USD and 10,000 signatures were collected for the motion to abandon the construction. All collected funds were allocated to publishing activities. The picket was organized, among others, by Fighting Solidarity in the Tri-City, which used the collected funds for publishing activities .
Despite the ongoing picket at the Container Terminal, the employees of the EJŻ were able to remove the reactor components on December 14th. On this occasion, physical violence was used against the youth, they were pushed, kicked, and dragged along the ground. Later, on December 20, in Gdynia, opponents of the construction of the Żarnowiec NPP organized a rally for the inhabitants of the Tri-City. On the other hand, a day later, on the initiative of WiP, "Twe-Twa" and "I Prefer To Be" Movements, a picket was organized at the main railway station in Gdańsk. During the session on December 22 and 23, 1989, the Council of Ministers decided to suspend the construction of the EJŻ for at least one year. However, the government argued its decision not with a wave of social protests, but with the poor economic situation of the state .
Meanwhile, in the Student House No. 3 in Gdańsk-Oliwa, after the announcement of the government's decision, the hunger strike continued. The protesters spoke by phone to the then Minister of Industry. It confirmed the belief that the authorities did not have a clearly defined opinion on the further fate of Żarnowiec. In such a situation, they decided that the suspension of the construction of the power plant for one year actually meant its further continuation. They expressed this in an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister on December 26, signed by the hunger strikers. The protesters spent Christmas together. The hungry were supported by the Ecological Movement of St. Francis of Assisi, which organized medical care for them .
The protests against the construction of the EJŻ gained new dynamics in January 1990. Taking advantage of the wave of public enthusiasm during political changes, the leaders decided to use a democratic tool - a referendum. The referendum procedure on the future of Żarnowiec was initiated on January 17, 1990 at a meeting of the Provincial National Council (until May 1990, such elements of the old system were still in use). Three days later, young people from Gdańsk ended their hunger protest that had been going on for 44 days! This was due to the declaration of the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association, the Ecological Forum and the Catholic Intelligence Club concerning the holding of a referendum on Żarnowiec together with the local elections announced for May 1990  .
The referendum vote was preceded by extensive leaflet campaigns by Gdańsk environmental organizations and independent organizations. As part of this propaganda initiative, easy-to-read (but untrue) statements were largely used about the plans to install a reactor identical to that used in Chernobyl in Żarnowiec, about "deep-sea tectonic movements" that would lead to the rupture of the upper reservoir of the pumped-storage power plant and flooding nuclear power plant, or about the inevitable radioactive contamination of the lake resulting from the use of an open cooling system. Moreover, there were rallies; young people organized special rock concerts. However, just before the upcoming elections, it turned out that it was in danger. The then-election commissioner announced a week before the planned referendum that it could not be held on the premises and in front of committees. The organizers' determination and the support of the public demanding the closure of the Żarnowiec power plant resulted in the organization of 599 premises and as many commissions  .
Local elections and a referendum were held on May 27, 1990. 44.3% of Pomeranian eligible voters voted in the referendum, 86.1% were against the continuation of construction, and 13.9% were in favor. The required 50% voter turnout for the referendum was not exceeded for it to become binding. This result confirmed that the public had become listless and tired, but at the same time opposed to the idea of building a power plant. Activists proved that they are not alone in their struggle and that they are not extremists who want to impose their will on society by fasting (as suggested by the authorities and the media). It is worth mentioning that the referendum committees were attended by representatives of independent local organizations (e.g. Kashubian-Pomeranian Association), the League for Nature Conservation, and people from the "Solidarity" printing house  .
After the unsuccessful referendum, there were protests in which, unlike the actions of 1988 and 1989, the inhabitants of the vicinity of the investment participated mainly. Residents periodically blocked access roads to the construction site with tractors and agricultural machinery, and as a result, the construction of the power plant was practically paralyzed. In turn, the anarchists continued their demonstrations in Gdańsk. Moreover, activists changed their strategy of resistance. They sought international recognition for their actions against the EJŻ. The links between the "Greens Federation" and activists from Western Europe were most often used. During the Rainbow meeting in 1990, Greenpeace decided to launch a pan-European campaign aimed at putting pressure on the Polish government to give up its plans to build a nuclear power plant. This was done mainly by sending letters to the government on behalf of Western European environmental organizations. The largest demonstrations were organized in France, Spain and Scandinavia. Occupations of embassies and consulates were also organized .
With time, the authorities realized that there was no point in insisting on building the EJŻ. The team of the President of the National Atomic Energy Agency for the Żarnowiec nuclear power plant issued the following opinion: "In the current economic situation of the country, the construction of the EJŻ should not be continued."   Therefore, On December 17, the Council of Ministers put the power plant into liquidation (deadline: December 31, 1992)  . At that time, the construction of the power plant was very advanced (the first reactor was 98% completed, the second - 80%), and $ 770,000,000 has been spent so far (at 1990 prices) . This decision - with severe economic consequences (the cost of demolition was huge) - was made despite the interest and declarations of support from European companies and institutions (Siemens, EDF, IVO Engineering, Commission of the European Communities) and the US (Westinghouse, US government) . The parliamentary resolution allowed for the construction of new generation nuclear power plants, ensuring economic efficiency and radiological safety. With time, several of already constructed buildings were looted and devastated .
Therefore, plans for the development of domestic nuclear energy are revived from time to time. Currently, the Polish nuclear power program (2020 version) provides for the construction and commissioning of 2 nuclear power plants with 3 reactors each. The choice of technology will take place in 2021, and the choice of the location for the first power plant in 2022 (decision: the Choczewo commune near Żarnowiec). Start of construction of the first reactor in 2026, its commissioning in 2033; commissioning of the last reactor in the second power plant in 2043 .