Home Optimal energy Meelis Münt: Halfway to the decision on the nuclear power plant | Opinion

Meelis Münt: Halfway to the decision on the nuclear power plant | Opinion


An Estonian company that wants to build a nuclear power plant in Estonia (Fermi Energia – ed.) said last week that the plant could be operational as early as ten years. As the company spokesperson mentioned, this would require a decision to go ahead with the project after the nuclear energy task force delivers its report.

One factor that encourages states and companies to invest in nuclear energy is the decision of the European Parliament on July 6 which classifies investments in nuclear energy as green.

Crucial decision deserving of in-depth analysis

We welcome the company’s initiative and I am happy to say that nuclear know-how is being created in Estonia. But the decision – whether or not to go down the nuclear energy path as a matter of strategic importance – requires careful analysis, reflection and public debate. To this end, Estonia has established a working group on nuclear energy where this work is currently underway.

The energy crisis is serious and important decisions cannot be postponed. That is why the nuclear energy group is working with an optimal schedule and should present its final report to the government and the Riigikogu six months before the scheduled end of 2023.

The adoption of nuclear energy requires a long-standing commitment and the analysis that precedes the decision must be thorough. We need to look at all aspects of the nuclear switchover. How to develop public sector capacities in the field of nuclear energy? Is society ready to accept a nuclear power plant in Estonia? Are there regions whose inhabitants would agree to a nuclear power plant? The working group must answer these questions to the best of its ability.

Potential locations of nuclear power plant and nuclear fuel final disposal sites, nuclear security and emergency preparedness situations are being analyzed. The definition of the legal framework necessary for the launch of the nuclear program, the updating of the nuclear bill and the development of a human resources strategy are then on the agenda. The possibilities for processing nuclear waste and the modalities for shutting down the plant in the future must also be analysed.

The Finns have made the most progress here and plan to launch the Onkalo permanent repository for nuclear waste at a depth of half a kilometer in 2025. Technologies for recycling spent nuclear fuel are also being developed and most of it can be recycled and reused today. Several countries are developing reactors that can use used nuclear fuel which helps reduce the need to mine uranium.

As for nuclear technology that might be suitable for Estonia, we are talking about small modular reactors about the size of the Auvere power plant with a single reactor power not exceeding 300 MW. A single nuclear power plant can have multiple reactors, which any potential location should facilitate. The choice of nuclear technology depends on the solutions available and feasible at the time of planning.

The working group must also determine which international agreements Estonia would have to adhere to and what kind of additional obligations becoming a nuclear state would entail. We need to know everything so that Estonia can make a carefully considered decision on whether to launch a nuclear program.

Last call to the Riigikogu

The task force will soon provide the government with an interim report of its efforts. This will take place in September, after which further decisions will be made. Only after the task force’s final report has been reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and approved by the government will we be able to say whether the adoption of nuclear energy could be a solution to help Estonia achieve 2050 climate goals and ensure energy security.

The final decision whether or not to build a nuclear power plant in Estonia will be taken by the members of the Riigikogu. As the implementation of a nuclear program is a long process, it must transcend the different governments.

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