State to establish work group for long-haul potential nuclear energy plans ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Location of currently active nuclear power plants in the Baltic Sea region.
Location of currently active nuclear power plants in the Baltic Sea region. Source: ERR

The government is to set up a national nuclear energy work group, which will analyse options for introducing nuclear power.

The decision was made following Thursday's cabinet meeting and the group, which will also make use of overseas experts, will present its findings to the government to help it develop a stance on the issue, which it currently does not have. There are no nuclear power stations in Estonia.

"One of potential solutions for increasing Estonia's energy security, sustainability and competitiveness and achieving the 2050 climate goals is commissioning of nuclear energy after 2030," Prime Minister Juri Ratas (Center) said.

Ratas also said that the topic deserves broader discussion as one of several ways of meeting climate-neutral energy goals.

Estonia lacks a legislative framework and the relevant authorities and experts for a nuclear power plant(s) at present. The current pertinent legislation, the Radiation Act, allows licenses for operating nuclear facilities but only after the Riigikogu has committed to commissioning a facility.

 The bulk of Estonia's electricity had long been generated by shale oil burning plants; the oil shale itself is mined in Ida-Viru County. Lithuania had a Soviet-era nuclear power plant at Ignalina, but this has since been decommissioned. Russia's Soviet-era Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant is less than an hour's drive from the Estonian border, and Finland has two active nuclear power stations with a further planned facility in the north of the country being developed in conjunction with Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom.

Outgoing environment minister Rene Kokk (EKRE) says nuclear power would ensure energy security and independence, but would require a lengthy lead time and significant state investments.

A plant could potentially produce hydrogen, as well as generating electricity and also heating for buildings.

Estonia has committed to meeting EU carbon footprint climate goals for 2050, which, it is argued, nuclear power fits in with, in addition to not being weather dependent as wind power, for instance, is.

Questions of how to handle nuclear waste, as well as overall security, political and safety issues will need addressing, and preparatory activities could take over a decade, meaning any plant would not be operational until at least 2035.

A former facility used for nuclear waste linked to the Soviet nuclear submarine crew training area in the port city of Paldiski has already been deemed unsuitable; involvement of public opinion and how this would be handled would also require work.

The relevant ministries to be involved in the planned work group include the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, as well as the environment ministry.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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