Fermi Energia is set to begin preliminary geological studies next week in Letipea, Viru-Nigula Parish as the next phase in preparations for the construction of a nuclear power station. Letipea residents say they have not been adequately informed or consulted and oppose the plans to build the power station in their area.
Residents of Letipea, Viru-Nigula Parish, have drafted a letter of appeal along with a public petition to oppose the planned construction of a nuclear power station in their local area. The appeal highlights that Letipea is a popular natural and biodiverse habitat in need of better protection.
"The village of Letipea has never before been publicly discussed or written about as a possible site for the proposed nuclear power station," wrote Letipea resident Enno Tammer, who is one of the locals backing the appeal.
"Now, however, it seems that the developers of the nuclear power plant, Fermi Energia, are promoting Letipea village as the only possible location (for the power station) both in the media and their communications with the authorities. For many residents and landowners in Letipea, this announcement has been like taking a cold shower, to say the very least," said Tammer.
"A dozen or so landowners with ties to Letipea were in constant communication with each other over the weekend. They confirm their opposition to Fermi Energia's (geological) studies and intend to present and defend their views to oppose the nuclear power plant planned for Letipea," said Tammer.
According to Tammer, an active group of Letipea residents and landowners have now engaged lawyers for legal protection and also submitted requests for information to the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Forest Management Center (RMK), and Enterprise Estonia (EAS). The latter has provided around €180,000 in funds to support the geological studies on the site. Further information has also been requested from Viru-Nigula Municipality.
According to Mayor of Viru-Nigula Parish Einar Vallbaum, local residents had been led to believe from the outset, that the Madala property, near the port of Kunda, was being considered as a possible site for a nuclear power plant. "But now, all of a sudden, the news came in, that would be Letipea instead," Vallbaum said.
"The newspapers got the information on October 26, we found out on October 24," Vallbaum said.
According to Vallbaum, plans to build a nuclear power station on the Madala property had not been cause for much resistance among locals, however, the commencement of geological studies in Letipea has now put them on the defensive. "Fermi Energia has not done its PR. The fact that the plans were drawn up without consulting locals is bad for everyone, including the municipality and the council," said Vallbaum.
According to municipal councilor Janner Eskor, Fermi Energia acknowledged that it had neglected to inform the municipality that geological studies were starting in Letipea. "Fermi Energia's behavior is a bit strange, because the background (behind the studies) has not been explained to local residents. When they started planning a nuclear power plant in Finland, they first spoke to the locals about safety. Here, Fermi Energia is trying to buy off the locals by promising cheap electricity and heating. We were told, that in the future we would be able to buy electricity at cost price, but who knows what that cost price will be," Eskor said. "For me, the more important things, such as security, are not being discussed," he added.
Local will agree on how to proceed with Fermi Energia, following a meeting with company representatives in Kunda on Thursday evening.
Fermi Energia board member Diana Revjako said, that the company was aware of the concerns of locals in Letipea. "We understand that this project is causing concern among locals and the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard - ed.) effect was expected. The earliest date construction on the reactor could begin would be 2029, however, locals seem to be under the impression that it will start immediately," said Revjako.
According to Revjako, preliminary geological studies are already underway in Letipea. "We will determine whether, from a geological perspective, this location is suitable for a nuclear power plant. This is a rudimentary baseline study, whereby we drill three holes into the ground to determine if we can even consider applying to the state for special planning permission for Letipea," Revjako said.
Revjako explained, that next week engineering firm OÜ Inseneribüroo Steiger will carry out drilling in Letipea, as agreed with the RMK. "The conditions were that we must not damage the natural environment there and also not take down any trees," Revjako said.
"We will go through the area beforehand and set the coordinates where we will drill," she added. A total of three 90 mm diameter holes will be drilled, at depths of 25, 60 and 80 meters.
Revjako stressed, that the final location of the nuclear plant will be determined during a special national planning process, with several potential sites having been shortlisted by Fermi Energia and the state. "The state is also in the process of pre-selecting sites. There is no point in us proposing sites to the state for special planning permission, if we know they cannot be built on," Revjako said.
The government is expected make a decision on whether to proceed with the construction of a nuclear power station in Estonia by early 2024. The soonest a reactor could be ready for operation would be no early than 2031.
Editor: Michael Cole