Norway considers SMR for Halden

15 November 2023

Norway’s Halden municipality, Norsk Kjernekraft and Østfold Energi are collaborating to investigate Halden as the possible location for a NPP using small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

The three parties have established a new company – Halden Kjernekraft – to investigate the possibilities of producing electricity using nuclear power in Halden. The company will initially carry out investigations and surveys as a decision-making basis for future development.

The initiative came from Halden municipality, which has more than 60 years of experience hosting a research reactor at the Institute of Energy Technology (IFE). IFE, which was founded in 1948 to develop Norway's nuclear research, built and operated four research reactors – three in Kjeller and one in Halden. The Halden Boiling Water Reactor (HBWR) went into operation in 1959 and was used for a wide range of safety-related research as part of an OECD-NEA run project. The reactor was licensed to operate until 2020. However, in 2018, while temporarily shut down due to a safety valve failure, it was decided that licence renewal would not be pursued and the reactor would not be restarted for economic reasons.

Today there is a power deficit in Oslo, Akershus and Østfold of 16 TWh. In addition, power system operator Statnett has indicated that there is no available capacity increased consumption without new production and network capacity in Eastern Norway. This is not expected until 2035 with current plans and has major consequences for Østfold.

“The time is ripe to investigate whether small, modular reactors (SMRs) can be part of the solution to the power shortage in Østfold.” said Roar Vevelstad, municipal director in Halden municipality. “We must explore all possibilities and not be afraid of knowledge”.

Halden municipality has a 20% stake in Halden Kjernekraft, while Norsk Kjernekraft and Østfold Energi own 40% each. Norsk Kjernekraft has also established cooperation with several other municipalities but believes Halden will be an asset.

“The municipality has long experience as a host for nuclear reactors and has solid expertise to make good decisions,” said Norsk Kjernekraft Managing Director Jonny Hesthammer. “The citizens are well used to nuclear reactor operations, and see that it contributes to creating long-term jobs. It forms a very good starting point for a collaboration, where we investigate thoroughly whether nuclear power can contribute to solving the municipality's future power needs.”

He also welcomes the involvement of Østfold Energi noting its extensive experience with the establishment of power production.

Martin Vatne, Director of Strategy & Business Development at Østfold Energi, emphasised that nuclear power in Norway is well advanced and must not become a sleeping pad for new renewable projects.

“We are happy about the positive decision from Halden municipality. Initially we want to investigate and acquire more knowledge. This is not an alternative to renewable energy, but it can be a supplement in the longer term,” he explained. “Modern nuclear power has advantages related to area, controllability and production hours, but is still controversial. There are many questions that need to be answered well. That is why we now want to put this on the agenda.”

Image: Halden municipality (courtesy of Zairon / Wikimedia Commons)

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