Ida-Viru residents want more details about new aerial surveillance radar

The Viru mine spoil heap. The radar will be erected on top of the 130-meter-high hill on the left.
The Viru mine spoil heap. The radar will be erected on top of the 130-meter-high hill on the left. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin/ERR

The Estonian Ministry of Defense is preparing to build a new aerial surveillance radar at the top of the former Viru mine in Ida-Viru County. Once the radar is operational, new areas in the region will be opened up for the potential construction of new wind farms.

An aerial surveillance radar, which is currently located in Kellavere, Lääne-Viru County, gained notoriety following a dispute between the Ministry of Defense and the Sõnajalg brothers, Andres and Oleg, who own green energy company Roheline Elekter AS.

According to the ministry, the wind turbines, which the Sõnajalg brothers planned to construct in the area, would have interfered with the radar's work. As a result, only one and a half of the 30 wind turbines planned for Aidu, Ida-Viru County, have been built so far, though even they are not yet operational.

The new radar sites, which are being built gradually, will not only increase Estonia's monitoring capacity, but also free up a number of previously restricted areas for the development of wind farms.

"Step by step, we will remove the height restrictions from these areas. At the moment, we are talking about Lääne-Viru County and the western part of Ida-Viru County. After that, the rest of mainland Estonia will be freed up, and then finally, the west Estonian islands and the maritime area," said Miiko Peris, head of the Estonian Ministry of Defense's innovation department.

The first of the new active radars is expected to be operational at the top of the 130-metre high Viru mine spoil heap by the end of next year. Design work on the early warning system is currently underway, as are negotiations with radar equipment suppliers. According to the Ministry of Defense, the airborne radars do not pose any risk of increasing radiation levels in the area.

"The radar's beams look into the air, and their aim is to detect flying objects while performing aerial surveillance. That is why the radars are positioned on high ground," said Peris.

"Once the radar has been completed, The Health Board will measure everything, if necessary. The technology is modern, has been certified in the European Union and in no way dangerous to human health," he added.

There are currently no public meetings planned ahead of the radar's installation. However, according to Kohtla-Järve Mayor Virve Linder, it is still possible that some could be held.

"As recent events have shown, it is better to prevent confusion and panic in the community and to be proactive when addressing community concerns. Ideally, I would like to see the Ministry of Defense, together with the municipalities, give people the opportunity to come, ask their questions and get the information directly from the source," said the mayor.

The Viru-Mari gardening co-operative, which is in the municipalities of Jõhvi and Kohtla-Järve. It includes 140 houses, a few dozen of which have residents all year round, and is within eyeshot of the site, where the new radar station is set to be built. Locals at the cooperative said, that were not opposed to the radar, though they would like more information about its potential effects.

"I had heard that a big military radar station was going to be built somewhere in Ida-Viru County, but I didn't know it was going to be built in our neck of the woods," said local resident Antonina Tugatova.

Residents of the gardening cooperative believe that the state could do more to improve local life as a goodwill gesture, in return for installing the radar in the area.

"They could come and repair the road that runs through our gardening cooperative, as well as the road that leads to us from the Tartu highway," said Tugatova.

Once the new Viru spoil tip radar is operational, the radar erected in Kellavere, Lääne-Viru County, will be moved to Ämari Airbase.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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