Analysis reveals four locations for potential nuclear plant in Estonia

The nearest nuclear power station to Estonia is the Loviisa plant, in Finland.
The nearest nuclear power station to Estonia is the Loviisa plant, in Finland. Source: Yle

Four potential locations across Estonia which could accommodate a nuclear power plant have been identified by finance ministry analysis, though these would be pending a decision on whether to actually go ahead with such a facility.

The four locations best suited for a nuclear power plant, according to the analysis, are at Toila,  Ida-Viru County, Kunda, Lääne-Viru County, Loksa, Harju County and Varbla, Pärnu County.

Kaia Sarnet, who heads up the Ministry of Finance spatial analysis working party, said at a press conference Wednesday that: "Detailed analysis will follow once the state has made the decision to build a nuclear power plant whatsoever, while much depends on the technological choice – where can we carry out the work, how much land is needed, and how major the socio-economic impact will be."

In other words, the analysis was mainly aimed at a feasibility study on whether a nuclear plant would be viable anywhere in Estonia, with the conclusion being that it would be.

The analysis itself was conducted by infrastructure consultancy firm Skepast&Puhkim, whose representative, Triin Lepland, appeared at the same press conference Wednesday.

Lepland said the process of selecting a final site for any potential nuclear power station would happen in stages; a precise location is not viable for security reasons and also following the example of other countries.

Criteria were, among others, nature conservation and heritage conservation areas, distance from the state border and also airports, plus requirements for large volumes of water.

As a result, all named potential zones were in coastal areas; the Pakri peninsula, near Paldiski, was excluded due to national security reasons.

A spokesperson from the Environment Ministry, Reelika Runnel, said that given Estonia's size, a small modular reactor (SMR) was in the picture, meaning up to 300MW capacity.

These would plug into the electricity grid in Estonia easily enough, while over 80 different types of SMR are under development worldwide, she added – principally in China and Russia.

Six types of reactor – four of them water-cooled, one gas-cooled and one molten salt reactor were looked at in the analysis, while both open and closed cooling systems were examined.

The UN Atomic Energy Agency recommendation is that an existing type of SMR is built, in a country with no past history of nuclear power, for instance Estonia (a small military nuclear reactor was reportedly located at Paldiski during the Soviet occupation of Estonia-ed.).

Another important consideration, given the changed security situation and energy being used as a weapon, is security of supply and the use of input substances not confined to one single producing country worldwide.

Uranium, the main input fuel used in nuclear energy, is mined in Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Niger, and Russia.

The analysis also covered the safe disposal of radioactive waste.

The order of progress will be: Decision on whether to build a nuclear power station in Estonia at all, followed by the choice of tech, and then the various options still on the table.

A time frame for an SMR being up and running in Estonia was not reported.

The locations in Estonia of the four sites revealed in the nuclear power plant spatial analysis. The blue areas are alternative zones for an SMR, while the salmon pink coloring includes Peipsi järv and areas within Estonia's maritime borders. Source: Ministry of Finance

Loksa, a small port town around 60km east of Tallinn, which was used as a submarine base during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, is surrounded by the Lahemaa National Park, but since the town, and a part of the adjacent Kuusalu Rural Municipality, lie outside the park's boundaries.

The nuclear power plant working group's final report will be complete by year-end, as things stand.

A recent, government-commissioned survey found that 75 percent of just over 1,500 respondents said they were in favor of a nuclear power plant in Estonia.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karin Koppel

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