Back-up plans exist for Russia shut-off of Narva reservoir scenario

The Narva River.
The Narva River. Source: "Osoon"

Contingency plans in place in Estonia would deal with a situation where oil shale-burning power stations in the Narva area going off-line in the event of the Russian Federation draining a Soviet-built reservoir, which spans the border between the two countries.

The severity of such an outcome would also depend on whether Estonia was still connected to the Russian grid or not, a status which would also affect Finland-Estonia electricity grid connections.

Opening the Narva reservoir's sluice gates from the Russian side of the border would cause the water level of the Narva River, which flows via the reservoir, to fall to a level which would prevent sufficient quantities of water, used primarily for cooling purposes, being accessible to power stations on the Estonian side.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Riina Sikkut (SDE) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Tuesday that state generator Eesti Energia has been tasked with maintaining the operation of the Narva power plants even in the event that the water level of the Narva River dropping as a result of hostile action by the Russian Federation.

Sikkut said: "The week before last, Eesti Energia received new operation requirements, which clearly state the need to create a back-up solution to mitigate a risk scenario whereby the sluices are opened, and cooling water being no longer available for the power stations. The need for quick, temporary solutions is also referred to."

At the same time, synchronous condensers being put together by electricity supplier Elering would facilitate subsistence, even without the Narva power stations being on-line, though these are not due to be ready until the start of 2023.

Eesti Energia confirmed that the Narva River contingency plan is in place, but says that it cannot elaborate on how these would work.

Eesti Energia CEO Hando Sutter told AK that:

"An action plan is in place, but this is not fully public. We have assessed potential risks, and we have taken these into account in the present situation, where some things may be more relevant than they were some time ago, while we will also adjust our plans accordingly."

"Of course, if we have to erect additional buildings, then first we need a plan, quantities, and other things. It is clear that we have activities planned and are working in this direction as of now," he went on.

AK reported that additional channels linking to the Narva River itself are needed, but Sutter was unable to elaborate on progress made here.

Kalle Kilk, Elering board member, also said that security of supply is guaranteed even without the Narva stations, but only for as long as the connection to the Russian electricity grid is maintained.

Kilk said: "For the Elering network, this does not mean anything as long as the large network remains intact as a whole. The situation is more complicated if, at exactly the same time, the Estonian electricity system is separated from the Russian one. In this situation, where we would be able to manage independently, then we certainly need the functioning of the power stations in Narva."

Map of Narva and environs, including the Narva Reservoir. The Estonian-Russian border runs along the Narva River, at this point. Source: Google Maps

If both outcomes, the Narva power stations being offline and no connection with the Russian grid, this would put the Estlink undersea cables, which link Estonia and Finland, offline or running at below capacity, Kilk added.

Emergency power stations and generators are also provided for in Estonia.

Estonia is scheduled to be de-synchronized from the Russian electricity grid in 2025, after which it will be synchronized with the EU grid.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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