Working group: Nuclear energy would support Estonia's energy system

  • 2023-12-29
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – According to the conclusions of the final report of the national nuclear energy working group, the introduction of nuclear energy in Estonia would support the achievement of climate goals, security of supply and the stability of the energy system.

Over the past two and a half years, the working group analyzed the potential of small modular reactors, following International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines. According to the report's conclusions, nuclear power would provide additional support to renewable energy. Although it requires thorough preparation, the working group believes that with timely planning, sufficient funding, political and public support, the introduction of nuclear energy in Estonia is possible, the Ministry of Climate said in a press release.

Antti Tooming, deputy secretary general of the Climate Ministry and the head of the nuclear energy working group, said that nuclear energy has proven itself in several countries across the world.

"Nuclear energy has the potential to ensure a stable energy supply in Estonia for future generations," Tooming said.

He added that the interest in the introduction of nuclear power, especially small modular reactors, is currently exhibiting a major growth trend around the world. Tooming stressed that if Estonia decides in favor of nuclear energy, it must not harm the addition of renewable energy production and storage capacities or cause the emission reduction to be postponed.

The introduction of nuclear energy in a country with no previous experience requires years of preparation and it would take 9-11 years to start producing electricity from a nuclear power plant. If it is decided to start using nuclear energy, the next step in Estonia should be the preparation of the legal framework, the development of competences and the process of choosing a location for the nuclear power plant.

In order to regulate nuclear energy safety, a new state institution should be created, where a total of approximately 80 people would work during the operation period of the plant. In addition to the existing 18 employees of the climate and radiation department of the Environmental Board, who will be added to the new agency, more than 60 new employees should be hired there, including a few dozen specialists in the field of nuclear energy, some of whom would come from abroad at least in the first years.

Assuming that the construction of the nuclear power plant would be financed by the private sector and the state's role would be to create a framework enabling the use of nuclear energy, the state budget costs from the implementation of the nuclear program until the start of electricity production at the nuclear power plant, that is over a period of 9-11 years, would be in the order of 73 million euros. Added to this are the costs of developing the rescue capability, the exact size of which can be estimated in later stages.

The introduction of nuclear energy would bring additional revenues to the state, primarily in the form of higher tax receipts and the enlivening of economic activity, which would presumably exceed the costs of creating and maintaining the national framework already at the construction stage of the nuclear power plant.

According to the final report, small modular reactors with a capacity of less than 400 megavolt-amperes would be suitable in Estonia. When choosing the technology, it is important to base it on experience and the security of supply of the fuel. In the first months of 2024, the government and Riigikogu will start discussing whether to launch the nuclear energy program in Estonia.