Rural municipality of 5,843 wants nuclear reactor

Viru-Nigula (area in red) on the north coast of Estonia would like to see Fermi Energia's molten salt reactor built on its territory.
Viru-Nigula (area in red) on the north coast of Estonia would like to see Fermi Energia's molten salt reactor built on its territory. Source: OpenStreetMaps/Wikimedia

The rural municipality of Viru-Nigula in Lääne-Viru county is interested in getting the small nuclear reactor Fermi Energia is planning to build in Estonia, a local official told daily Päevaleht.

Viru-Nigula mayor, Einar Vallbaum, told the paper (link in Estonian) that they are very interested in the coming nuclear power station. "We're helping along as much as we can, because seeing this nuclear power station built would be important for Estonia," Mr Vallberg said.

The area was a candidate also some 12 years ago, when state-owned energy company Eesti Energia was looking into potentially building a nuclear power station. While back then the idea was to build a conventional reactor, the new project currently discussed and involving energy company Fermi Energia as well as British-Canadian company Moltex Energy aims at the construction of a molten salt reactor.

Estonia still generates most of its power from burning oil shale at Eesti Energia's Narva blocks. This fossil fuel capacity will have been mostly retired by 2030, as blocks are getting older and taken off the grid without replacing them.

The road ahead certainly won't be easy, as one of the possible locations of the power station in Viru-Nigula is currently a bird reserve. Alternative locations include the nearby city of Sillamäe and its surrounding area.

Molten salt reactor safer than conventional designs

Moltex is developing a molten salt reactor. This approach was first taken in the early stages of the Cold War, when the United States ran two programs investigating the possibility of a nuclear-powered strategic bomber.

Initial designs were shelved, and the world's nuclear industries developed along the line of high-pressure reactors developed based on the nuclear nations' experience with their atomic weapons programs. Interest in the molten salt reactor type resurged in the late 1990s, with several companies and at least two countries actively developing the technology at this time.

The molten salt reactor design has many advantages over the established pressurised types, including the virtual impossibility of a meltdown, a much lower risk of other accidents as it operates at atmospheric pressure, and the option to use existing nuclear waste as fuel.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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