Estonia considers constructing own nuclear power plant

06 March 2008

Estonia's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, which is drafting a new energy development plan, announced that it will compile a shortlist of possible locations in Estonia for the country's first nuclear power plant.

The most likely location for a nuclear power plant is said to be the Pakri peninsula on Estonia's northern coast, not far from the capital Tallinn. The north-eastern coastal town of Sillamae has also been mentioned as a possible location. Lake Vortsjarv in the south of the country is considered too shallow to be a source of cooling water for a plant. Granite deposits on Muuga Bay could be suitable for the storage of used nuclear fuel.

State-owned Eesti Energia plans to participate in a project to construct a new nuclear power reactor at Ignalina, Lithuania. The project will also involve Latvia's Latvenergo, and Poland's Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne. However, disputes between the partners have led to delays in finalizing the project. In addition, Estonia has expressed an interest in participating in future nuclear power projects in Finland, now that the two countries' power grids are connected.

In an interview with Reuters, Sandor Liive, CEO of Eesti Energia, said: "If we look further to increase CO2-free power in general we are looking at the possibility to enter nuclear power generation. If we are talking about nuclear then in the longer term, I would not exclude Estonia. But this is very definitely a long-term project." He added, "If we take the horizon of 2055, then I would not rule out nuclear power generation in Estonia. But our thinking is in a very early stage. It is very clear that we have to reduce the CO2 intensity in our power generation portfolio."

Liive recently told the Bloomberg, "If the project in Lithuania is delayed and the Finns say 'We do not have room for you' - then what other options do we have than building our own?" He also told the Baltic News Service, "We are connected with a project and getting information about the development of a sub-400 MW nuclear reactor that should be available for commercial use in 2015." He added, "This is a subject for public discussion, this is a topic for serious discussion, and through public discussion, through serious analysis, the right decisions are made."

Einari Kisel, head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication's energy department, said that a nuclear power plant would ensure Estonia's long-term energy supply. However, he warned, "getting there is of course a very long process that is going to take a minimum of 15 years."

Estonia derives over 90% of its energy from its oil shale reserves. However, the country is planning to significantly reduce its use of oil shale due to the resulting emissions of carbon dioxide. Estonia is one of the world's biggest producers of CO2, with per capita emissions of 14 tonnes per year.

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