TALLINN - The Estonian government is on the verge of making a final decision surrounding construction of the country's first nuclear power plant.
In a preliminary study, the state-run electricity company Eesti Energia has chosen six suitable sites for a nuclear reactor on the country's northern coast.
According to Eesti Energia, Suur-Pakri and Keibu Bay would be particularly good as "these locations provide the best possibilities for obtaining cooling water," said Andres Tropp, the head of the nuclear energy department of Eesti Energia.
Also under consideration is an area at Cape Telise in Noarootsi, on the north-eastern coast of the Letipea Peninsula, the Tursamae high bank between Sillamae and Voka and the area surrounding the Viivikonna open cast mine in the territory of the Toila and Vaivara municipalities.
"We can say on the basis of the study that there are very few suitable locations for the building of a nuclear power plant in Estonia," said Sandor Liive, Chairman of the Eesti Energia Board.
Tropp highlighted that the results are only from preliminary location studies 's as soon as a green light is given to the construction of a nuclear power plant, it will be necessary to give a more accurate assessment of the potential locations.
Estonia does not yet have its own legislation on nuclear power plants, so the safety restrictions in force in neighboring Finland were taken into consideration.
A final parliamentary decision on the issue can be expected in 2014 at the earliest. Eesti Energia plans to introduce a reactor of up to 1,000 megawatts in 2025.
In 2006 Estonia signed a contract for the joint Baltic nuclear power station in Lithuania. However, authorities say Lithuania delayed the project long enough for Eesti Energia to change its plans.
In order to comply with the terms of the new European Union climate and energy programs, Estonia has to make considerable reductions in its carbon dioxide emissions.
The country's high level of emissions stems from the fact that Estonia generates most of its electricity by burning oil shale. Estonia plans to replace this method with wind and nuclear energy and to preserve self-sufficiency thus avoiding dependence on imports of energy from Russia.
At the moment, Estonia's Baltic Power Plant, built in the 1960s, is one of the most powerful oil shale fuelled power stations in the world. The plant has the capacity to generate 765 megawatts of electricity and 400 megawatts in heat.
Eesti Energia has recently announced that it will possibly shut the plant down for the summer. Even though only one out of four generating units is operating during the low season, the maintenance costs remain too high.
"The operation of one block entails the whole range of expenses for maintaining the infrastructure of the plant," said Raine Pajo, member of the board of Eesti Energia.
He said the final decision will be made in April when all of the pros and cons have been