Fermi Energia and Vattenfall sign agreement to increase cooperation on SMRs (credit: Vattenfall)Swedish power company Vattenfall, which participated in the feasibility study for the construction of a small modular reactor (SMR) in Estonia, has signed an agreement to intensify cooperation with Fermi Energia.

"We have noticed a growing interest in SMRs. Our cooperation with Fermi Energia is aimed at supporting the company's goal to build Europe's first SMR in Estonia,” said Torbjörn Wahlborg, Vattenfall's Vice President of Energy Production. “We are now deepening our research in specific areas and cooperating until a proposal is submitted to the Estonian Parliament for a decision in principle on the construction of a SMR. The cooperation with Fermi Energia gives Vattenfall a skills gap in the field that we are developing internally.”

The aim of the cooperation is to assess in more detail the  technological maturity of SMRs and their suitability for introduction in Estonia. In addition to Vattenfall, other European energy companies are participating in the research, contributing their expertise in their field.

"We are pleased to be working with one of Europe's leading nuclear companies, which has set a goal to get rid of carbon emissions in one generation. Safer, simpler, cheaper and smaller technologies also make nuclear energy an accessible and reasonable solution for Estonia in ensuring security of electricity supply. This has also been understood at government level, which has decided to set up a working group on nuclear energy. This is a complex area, but the goal of achieving true carbon neutrality in all areas of life in the Nordic countries is also difficult,” said Kalev Kallemets, Member of the Management Board of Fermi Energia.

Although Estonia has fulfilled its official obligation to reduce CO2 emissions to the required extent, it remains the most polluting country in Europe.   Sweden, however, has one of the lowest CO2 emissions in the world with virtually fossil-free electricity thanks to hydro and nuclear energy, as well as bio- and wind energy.

"Vattenfall shares its know-how with Fermi Energia in the construction of NPPS, in particular in the areas of project financing and feasibility studies, as well as personnel training and operations, and supply chain creation," added Mats Ladeborn, Vattenfall's power plant development manager.

"The introduction of small modular reactors on the market offers new opportunities for the use of nuclear energy, and it is natural for Vattenfall to keep pace with developments in the areas that we also use in energy production. The transition of the Estonian energy industry to clean production would have a significant positive effect on the achievement of the climate goals of the entire European Union,” he added.

Fermi Energia was established by Estonian nuclear energy experts and entrepreneurs, to investigate the possibility of introducing a new generation SMR in Estonia. Earlier this year, Fermi Energia also signed an enhanced cooperation agreement with Finnish energy company Fortum and Belgian engineering group Tractebel to study Baltic SMR development with a view to deploying the technology in the next decade.

The Estonian government has decided to form a national working group on nuclear energy to assess the introduction of nuclear power generation. The group will analyse – with the help of foreign experts – the suitability of introducing nuclear energy for ensuring the security and safety of Estonia’s energy supply. The working group will be convened this year and has a two-year working plan.

Fermi Energia has meanwhile begun a formal dialogue with two municipalities hoping they will agree to being included in National Designated Spatial Planning (NDSP). This is the formal government led process including strategic environmental impact assessment for choosing the suitable site. Initiation of a planning process for potential SMR technologies justifies the formation of a regulatory system suitable for SMR deployment.

In October, Fermi Energia Chairman of the Supervisory Board Sandor Liive said: "There is one important prerequisite for the establishment of a NPP in Estonia: that a municipality is found that is prepared to allow it in its territory, and therefore we are talking to those who have been interested. The ones that have been most interested are the municipalities of Viru-Nigula and Luganuse."  Fermi Energia has reportedly made a proposal to the municipality government of Viru- to be granted the right to set up a plant near the port of Kunda on the North Coast.

Photo: Fermi Energia and Vattenfall sign agreement to increase cooperation on SMRs (credit: Vattenfall)