Nuclear energy company Fermi Energia has announced an initial investment round for a proposed reactor planned for Estonia, and says it will file a planning application with the state later this year, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday evening.
Several locations have been touted as potential sites for the proposed plant. One is Kaberneeme, east of Tallinn, and another is Kunda, Lääne-Viru County, while three different sites in Lüganuse municipality in Ida-Viru County have also been suggested.
The 300 MW plant would, if it became reality, provide about 20 percent of Estonia's daytime electricity needs, rising to 25 percent at nighttime, AK reports.
The decline in the oil shale industry, hastened by a need to meet climate change goals, has put potential future energy sources on the table, with renewables such as wind farms also seeing much growth in recent years. Estonia also imports electricity via the Nord Pool market, while work to decouple from the Russian grid and synchronize with the EU power grid is ongoing. Oil shale-fueled power stations had once provided the bulk of Estonia's electricity needs, though some power stations burn woody biomass fuels at times.
Fermi CEO: State special plan only viable route
Fermi Energia CEO Kalev Kallemets told AK that a special state plan was the only option in any nuclear power plant.
Kallemets said that: "Of course, we are not the government of the republic, but our role can be to prepare this proposal as thoroughly as possible."
Investor money would cover costs related to the putative special plan, however, including impact assessments conducted ahead of submitting the application, AK reported.
Secretary General of the Ministry of the Environment Meelis Münt said that the ministry hopes to convene the first nuclear technology working group in March, which will discuss with the authorities possible preconditions and prospects for nuclear energy in Estonia.
While nuclear energy has long had a stigma attached to it, in part arising from the 1986 fire at a major reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, generation small nuclear reactors (SMR) are being developed worldwide, though none are active yet.
SMRs at planning stage so far
Finland has two active nuclear power plants, with a third planned for Hanhikivi, near the northern city of Oulu.
"Really all these special plans, impact assessments etc. are only the next step. Right now setting up a roadmap to talk about nuclear energy in a structural and rational way, rather than just on the basis of emotions, is key," Meelis Münt said.
Fermi announces funding rounds via private company funding and trading global marketplace Funderbeam
Meanwhile, Fermi has announced a €2.5-million investment funding round to get the new generation nuclear energy SMR design and planning process underway.
Founders of two of Estonia's five unicorn firms, Martin Villig (Bolt) and Martin Henk (Pipedrive), are on board as key investors in the round already, Fermi says.
The company has already financed preparatory operations to the tune of €0.56 million raised by private investors, the company says.
Nuclear power is the only option open to Estonia in ensuring Estonia's electricity supply security and affordable electricity prices while meeting climate goals, Fermi CEO Kalev Kallemets says.
Reiterating comments made to AK, Kallemets said: "Estonia has set an ambitious goal to end electricity production from oil shale by 2035. Simultaneously, the country cannot be dependent on wind and solar power only, as those sources depend on weather conditions, and the neighboring countries are projected to be short on energy export output."
"The application of a new generation small modular reactor would solve this challenge for Estonia and is relevant for the wider region," Kallemets added, via a press release.
Fermi: State planning process starting later this year
Fermi was founded in 2019 specifically to look at options for new generation SMRs, the company says, while Kaidi Ruusalepp, welcomed its funding intentions.
She said: "Fermi's decision to engage investors from the very start is a bold move. New energies are a crucial move to the sustainability of the planet. The decision to list the company on Funderbeam demonstrates the will of transparency that is expected, especially from companies developing projects that impact the whole society.
"Fermi demonstrates that companies from all industries can consider listing the firm on marketplaces like Funderbeam, without the need for an IPO on a conventional stock exchange," Ruusalepp added.
Fermi has signed letter of intent memorandums with European energy companies including Fortum, Tractebel and Vattenfall to exchange information and finance research, the company says.
Fermi says the application to initiate the state planning process will take place late on this year, with the state having 90 days to then decide whether to go ahead. The planning process itself will take four to five year – necessitated by SMR tech actually becoming fully available later on this decade.
Poll: Over half Estonian citizens in favor of SMR
Over half Estonian citizens are in favor of an SMR in the country according to a recent Kantar Emor poll, while the proportion of those against it is just under 30 percent.
Founded in 2013, Funderbeam has offices in London, Singapore, Copenhagen, Tallinn and Zagreb (Croatia), and serves investors globally and to date has traded more than €10.5M worth of investments on its exchange, the company says.
Kaidi Ruusalepp, its CEO, is former CEO of the Nasdaq Tallinn Stock Exchange and Central Securities Depository.
Editor: Andrew Whyte