Fermi Energia starts SMR feasibility study

12 June 2019

Fermi Energia has launched a feasibility study on the suitability of small modular reactors for Estonia’s electricity supply and climate goals beyond 2030, following a financing round of EUR260,000 (USD290,076) from investors and shareholders.

The Stable Salt Reactor (Image: Moltex Energy)

Partners in the research include universities in Estonia, VTT and Fortum Nuclear Services from Finland, and Tractebel of Belgium.

Fermi Energia has selected four innovative SMR designs to be included in the feasibility study: Moltex Energy SSR-W300, Terrestrial Energy IMSR-400, GE Hitachi BWRX-300 and NuScale SMR.

Chairman of the board at Fermi Energia, Sandor Liive, said Estonia has "no other credible choice" than nuclear power for security of power supply with decreasing oil shale power generation, but that this will need to be from SMRs.

"If indeed Fermi Energia succeeds in developing understanding and knowledge for that option, given the emerging sharp power supply deficit, Estonia could be the first EU country to deploy an SMR in the 2030s," Liive said.

However, he added that any first-of-a-kind SMR would first need to be licensed and built in the vendor's own country before Estonia, a new nuclear country, would be able to select the design and apply to its own regulator for a construction licence.

In March, Fermi Energia announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UK-based Moltex Energy to work together, including on a feasibility study for the siting of a Moltex advanced reactor and the development of a suitable licensing regime. However, in a 30 May statement, Fermi said that the MoU did not mean Moltex was a 'preferred vendor' and that it was also talking to other developers of SMR technology.

Fermi Energia has now confirmed that the MoU signed on 13 March says: "Fermi Energia states that given innovative fuel economy, safety, reliability and economic parameters, SSR-W300 is its preferred technology choice within National Spatial Planning if currently projected parameters are licensed and empirically verified in Canada."

Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, said: "I would like to apologise if my previous remarks gave the impression that the Moltex press statement issued was not correct; it is correct and was approved by Fermi Energia prior to its release."

He added, "For avoidance of doubt we would like to stress that Fermi Energia has selected the Moltex SSR-W300 as one of four preferred designs for deployment in Estonia and has not given exclusivity to any developer."

Fermi said that the phrase 'preferred bidder' as a tranlation from Estonian had led to misunderstanding and that 'shortlisted bidder' was more accurate in English.

Fermi Energia Ltd was founded by Estonian energy and nuclear energy professionals to develop deployment of SMRs in Estonia. Baltic countries import about 10 TWh of electricity and this is expected to increase to 13 TWh this year on decreasing oil shale power generation, it said.

Estonia generates most of its electricity demand from oil shale at the 2380 MWe Narva plant.

The country's finance minister, Martin Helme, today said that a modern nuclear power plant could be one alternative to oil shale-based electricity. Speaking to the Postimees newspaper, he said: "A nuclear plant is definitely one option we should consider without emotion coming into it. We need to look at modern technology that is available and understand that the plants at Chernobyl and Fukushima are previous generation plants. Nuclear reactors exist that employ new technologies and are not in danger of exploding."

According to Helme, if Estonia chose to use nuclear energy, construction of a plant would require an investment of EUR10-15 billion (USD11-17 billion), and electricity production could begin by 2030.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News