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A startup looking at proposals to build a small modular reactor in Estonia by the middle of next decade has said it is set to begin the process of site selection for a first unit.

Fermi Energia’s founder and chief executive officer Kalev Kallemets said in a television interview that no decision had been made about a site, but that authorities in the municipality of Viru-Nigula, in the north of the country, were interested.

Mr Kallemets said: “If we do not deal with this discussion and research today, then in 10 years it could be too late and the opportunity will be gone”. He said Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality.

He said an “optimistic scenario” provides for the first plat to begin operation in the early 2030s.

In October Fermi Energia and US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy signed an agreement to collaborate on the potential deployment of GEH’s BWRX-300 SMR in the Baltic country. Bloomberg has reported that Fermi Energia has shortlisted four different SMR technologies for potential deployment. It said they are GEH, Moltex Energy of the UK, Terrestrial Energy of Canada and NuScale of the US.

Bloomberg said Fermi Energia has raised funds from local investors who see potential for the startup to run the reactor without state backing or financial aid from utilities. The country will need the extra source of power to meet more unreliable flows of electricity when Estonia and the rest of Baltic region synchronises its grids with Europe instead of Russia from 2025.

According to the International Energy Agency, Estonia is relatively independent in energy, thanks to its large domestic oil shale reserves. The IEA said the country is on the brink of “a major energy transition” that will see a substantial change in the role of oil shale in the future energy mix, moving towards extracting a higher value of oil shale resources.

However, electricity production from oil shale is the most CO2-intensive among all combustion technologies, which is why Estonia’s power and heat production has the second-highest CO2 intensity of all IEA countries after Australia.

Date: Tuesday, 28 January 2020
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