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SDE MP: Decision needed on whether nuclear power plant really needed in Estonia

A nuclear power plant in Estonia should only be built if doing so is an unavoidable necessity, Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP and former government minister Jevgeni Ossinovski says.

Ossinovski made his remarks at a party politicians debate which formed part of Monday's Nuclear Energy Information Day conference.

Estonia has no nuclear power station at present, though the possibility of constructing a small modular reactor (SMR) in a coastal area of the country is under debate, while the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month found that Estonia has the capacity to move forward with the implementation of nuclear energy, should it choose to do so.

Ossonovski said that given the associated risks, the question is whether a nuclear plant is really necessary; this would be a first for the country and so would be a leap into the unknown, while there is also the question of the long-term impact on society regarding the disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

Furthermore, in many other parts of the world, the construction of a nuclear power plant has become significantly more expensive than originally planned, Ossinovski said.

Ossinovski noted that he was speaking on behalf of his party, the Social Democrats, also "Yes, if there is an unavoidable need [to have a nuclear power plant] but my party believes that there is no unavoidable need."

Meanwhile Isamaa's representative at the conference, former IT and foreign trade minister Kristjan Järvan, said taking a step back before deciding on how Estonia sees its future economic policy is a required precursor to making energy policy decisions.

Kristjan Järvan. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Should Estonia desire a larger economy, which would also entail the development of industry, this would require a nuclear power plant, but if that is not desired, then wind power, for example, is sufficient to meet domestic needs, he said.

At the same time, Estonia's energy production needs to be diversified, and nuclear energy is an important option that should be considered in any case, Järvan went on.

Another former IT and foreign trade minister, Andres Sutt (Reform), said that all such major decisions require time – though nonetheless, an investor also requires certainty.

"Even if we create this framework, it is not 100 percent certain that there will be an investor who chooses to invest here," Sutt said.

Andres Sutt (Reform). Source: SiiM Lõvi /ERR

Several potential sites for an SMR Estonia have been identified; private sector company Fermi Energia would likely get the contract to build if the decision was made in the affirmative.

The only operational SMRs to be found worldwide yet are in China and in Russia.

Finland currently has five operational reactors across two sites; work on a plant at a third site, at Hanhikivi, near Oulu, in the North of the country, was canceled after Russia's invasion of Ukraine – Finland had signed a deal with Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear agency, to construct the plant.

The U.K. has has nine operational nuclear reactors at five locations nationwide, providing around 16 percent of domestic electricity needs.

Estonia was under Soviet occupation when the 1986 Chernobyl disaster occurred, and some Estonians were forcibly drafted in in response to the human-made catastrophe. The RBMK-type reactor involved is now obsolete.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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