USA to assist Estonia in nuclear capacity building

25 January 2022

The USA and Estonia have agreed to cooperate under the US Department of State's Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) capacity-building programme.

Tallin, the Estonian capital (Image: Angelo Giordano/Pixabay)

Launched last year, the FIRST programme is designed to deepen strategic ties, support energy innovation and advance technical collaboration with partner countries on secure and safe nuclear energy infrastructure. To date, the US Department of State has announced USD6.3 million to support FIRST projects worldwide.

Estonia expressed its desire to join the programme in late 2021, and the focus of the training topics and the length of the first training programme were soon agreed upon.

The initial training will take place virtually between February and September and will focus on nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation. The training sessions will be attended by representatives of government ministries, their subdivisions, universities and stakeholders.

Future capacity-building will address the establishment of national nuclear safety regulations, workforce development, stakeholder engagement and site assessments of a nuclear power plant.

According to Estonia's Minister of Environment Erki Savisaar, collaborating with the USA through FIRST programme training will enhance the knowledge of Estonia's specialists considering the deployment of small modular reactors and help the country to make an informed decision on the feasibility of including nuclear energy in Estonia's energy mix.

"We must first find out what opportunities nuclear technology offers and be aware of the responsibilities and obligations involved," Savisaar said.

"As Estonia has no previous experience in the use of nuclear technology and the country lacks expertise in the respective field, the support and assistance of the US government in this process is very necessary and welcome. At the same time, organising the training is in no way a sign that Estonia has already made its decision regarding nuclear energy or some specific reactor technology."

"We welcome Estonia's ambitious efforts to transition from carbon-intensive sources for power generation and to ensure the country’s energy independence," said US Embassy Tallinn Chargé d’Affaires Brian Roraff.

"The FIRST programme brings extensive expertise from the US government, academia, national laboratories and industry to Estonian officials as they explore the feasibility of nuclear technology in a manner consistent with the highest international standards of nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation. This is a big decision, and we support Estonia's careful consideration of all viable energy alternatives."

In April 2021, the Estonian government formally approved the formation of a nuclear energy working group (NEPIO) tasked with analysing the possibility of introducing nuclear energy in Estonia. The group will analyse technologies and actual projects under development in other countries, and assess whether the development of a nuclear power plant should be carried out by the state or the private sector and what the possibilities for private-public cooperation could be. The NEPIO will present its conclusions and proposals to the government by September 2022 at the latest.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News