If a nuclear power plant is to be constructed in Estonia, this would lead to an increased need for rescue workers and police officers, according to an analysis by the Ministry of the Interior on nuclear security and emergency preparedness. This is in addition to the specialists, who would be required to ensure all the necessary procedures are in place to safeguard against any potential risks involved.
Earlier this year, a sub-group on nuclear security and emergency preparedness was established under the Ministry of the Interior. The sub-group's aim is to prepare an analysis and provide an expert assessment of the situation related nuclear security and emergency preparedness for the final Estonian national nuclear energy report.
Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said, that by the end of the year, the report would make it clear what the cost of a nuclear power plant would be for the country.
"In light of this expert assessment, it has to be said that, given the situation with the state budget, finding the money to build a nuclear power plant seems questionable, to say the least," said Läänemets.
According to Läänemets, the one-off investment needed to build a nuclear power plant would be just shy of €100 million, with millions of additional euros needed each year to cover maintenance costs.
The minister noted, that unless Estonia's population protection plans are developed, building a nuclear power plant will not be possible.
The issue of human resources would also become increasingly important. "We need experts and nuclear scientists. We need more police officers and Internal Security Service (Kaitsepolitsei) officers. We need to upgrade the rescue teams, and we need to be able to offer them salaries to match. Building a nuclear power station means hiring more staff within the Ministry of the Interior. A lot of money will also be needed when it comes to internal security," Läänemets said.
Viola Murd, secretary general for rescue and crisis at the Ministry of the Interior, said that Estonia currently does have an emergency plan in case an accident involving nuclear power plant occurs in a neighboring country.
Murd explained, that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has regulated practically everything in advance. Therefore, it would be up to Estonia to abide by these rules and regulations. "As far as security risk management and accident prevention are concerned, the Ministry of the Interior's would not be able to cope with the tasks foreseen today. Above all, these concern human resources and competences, which the agency cannot provide us with. We would need to create them ourselves and that takes time," Murd said.
"The construction of a nuclear power plant will require the development of top specialists and experts but also staff throughout the program more broadly. This would include the need to ensure security by conducting background checks, the number of which will increase significantly as the program progresses," added Murd.
There will also be a need to establish an independent national body with the power to assess license applications and make decisions on safety and security issues.
Ministry of the Interior advisor Aigo Allmäe said, that when it comes to security, Estonia's main responsibility is to protect nuclear material from theft and sabotage. "We have to provide physical protection and control over the material. Physical protection means surveillance and control. The security of personnel also has to be guaranteed," Allmäe said.
Allmäe stressed, that there are a number of safety aspects that must be considered when designing and constructing a nuclear power plant in order to minimize any potential risk of an accident taking place.
Editor: Michael Cole