Estonia, a small Baltic country in Northern Europe, is considering the possibility of using nuclear energy as a way to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and increase its energy security. This move could have a significant impact on the country's economy, as well as its energy and environmental policies.
Estonia's Fermi Energia has selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's (GEH's) BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) for potential deployment in the Baltic country by the early 2030s. Two other SMR designs had been under consideration.
Fermi Energia noted that, in order to construct a nuclear power plant in Estonia, a decision is needed from the parliament - the Riigikogu - to approve the use of nuclear energy in the country. Also, a special national plan to find a suitable location for the plant must be undertaken, as well as the development of nuclear energy legislation.
"We have analysed all the work ahead and consider it realistic to produce reliable, clean and affordable nuclear energy in Estonia by Christmas 2031, which should also be in the interest of society and the country's climate goals," Kallemets said. "Understandably, this goal requires a serious effort from both the state and Fermi Energia."
The BWRX-300 is a small modular reactor (SMR) design developed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. It is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) that is smaller and more flexible than traditional nuclear power plants. The BWRX-300 is designed to be built in factories and then shipped to their final location for assembly. Its compact design allows for it to be deployed in a wide range of locations, including in countries or regions with limited grid capacity or infrastructure. The BWRX-300 is designed to have a capacity of 300 megawatts and is being considered for deployment in a number of countries, including Estonia.
Currently, Estonia relies heavily on oil shale as a source of energy, which is a highly polluting and inefficient fuel. The country is also highly dependent on Russia for its energy needs, which makes it vulnerable to supply disruptions and price volatility.
In recent years, Estonia has been exploring alternative energy sources to reduce its reliance on oil shale and improve its energy security. One option that has been under consideration is nuclear energy.
Proponents of nuclear energy argue that it is a reliable and low-carbon energy source that can provide a stable supply of electricity. Nuclear power plants have a high capacity factor, meaning they can generate power consistently and reliably. Nuclear energy is also considered to be a low-carbon source of energy, as it produces much less carbon emissions than fossil fuels.
Opponents of nuclear energy, on the other hand, are concerned about the safety and security risks associated with nuclear power plants. The risk of accidents and the potential for nuclear waste to be mismanaged or used for nefarious purposes are both major concerns.
Despite these concerns, Estonia is taking steps towards exploring the possibility of using nuclear energy. In 2020, the country established a working group to develop a plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Estonia. The group includes representatives from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Finance.
The working group is currently in the process of conducting a feasibility study to assess the viability of nuclear energy in Estonia. The study will consider a range of factors, including the economic, environmental, and social impacts of nuclear energy. It will also examine the safety and security risks associated with nuclear power plants.
If the feasibility study indicates that nuclear energy is a viable option for Estonia, the country will move forward with developing a detailed plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant. This would involve conducting environmental impact assessments, securing financing, and obtaining the necessary permits and licenses.
In conclusion, Estonia is considering the use of nuclear energy as a way to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and increase its energy security. While there are concerns about the safety and security risks associated with nuclear power plants, proponents argue that it is a reliable and low-carbon energy source. If the feasibility study indicates that nuclear energy is a viable option, Estonia could move forward with developing a detailed plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant.