Environment minister favors referendum on nuclear power plant question

Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk (EKRE).
Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk (EKRE). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk (EKRE) believes that the construction of a nuclear power plant in Estonia is a matter that should be put to a referendum. Should one end up being built, Kokk says that only tested and safe technologies should be used.

Speaking on Vikerraadio program Stuudios on peaminister recently, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said that the government's Climate and Energy Committee has discussed the question of building a nuclear power plant in Estonia, adding that Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk had suggested holding a referendum on the matter.

"A nuclear power plant is such a big and significant decision for all of Estonia, which is why it is very important that people be able to have a say in accepting it," Kokk told ERR.

He also stressed, however, that he has not yet proposed this to the government. "The government hasn't even decided to convene a work group with which to move forward on this issue," Kokk said. "When the decision is made to start mapping this topic out, we will also reach discussions regarding how to move forward."

The Climate and Energy Committee are expected to discuss nuclear energy again sometime before the end of March.

Kokk highlighted that Estonia currently lacks the corresponding regulatory framework, competent authorities and experts in the field to address the nuclear power plant issue.

"Developing this competence and training people are of critical importance before we can even begin to discuss planning and construction," he said. "Safety must be ensured in both the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant as well as in waste management. We need to take into account that the adoption of nuclear power requires at least 10-15 years of preparations and at least 100 years of continued action."

Kokk: Energy production must be made greener

According to the environment minister, alternative opportunities for energy production must be considered in order to make Estonia's energy production cleaner.

"Estonia has supported the EU's goal to go climate-neutral by 2050," he said. "In order to do so, we need to make our energy production significantly greener as well."

Domestically, Kokk considers wind and solar energy to have the most potential.

Regarding security of supply, however, issues needing addressing include what to do during very cold winters, when energy consumption spikes or on days when there is no wind, and according to Kokk, one possible option for ensuring security of supply could be nuclear energy, however the latter involves a number of questions that must be answered before Estonia could even start moving in that direction.

"I am of the position that if we consider nuclear energy, then this definitely needs to involve the most modern technology possible, which is safer than the technology currently in use in most nuclear states," the minister said. "At the same time, Estonia cannot become the country where new technologies start to be tested; we can only consider reliable and safe technology that is already in use."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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