Norway’s Norsk Kjernekraft has submitted a proposal to the Energy Ministry for an assessment into the construction of a small modular reactor (SMR) power plant in Finnmark county in the extreme northeastern of Norway as the first step in the formal process required for plant construction.

Vardø municipality and Norsk Kjernekraft in June 2023 signed an agreement to prepare a report with proposals for a study programme after Vardø proposed nearby Svartnes as a possible site for a NPP. Norsk Kjernekraft signed agreements with a number of municipalities in 2023 to explore the feasibility of nuclear power. Vardø and Norsk Kjernekraft mapped the energy situation in Finnmark and investigated the local conditions at Svartnes.

Based on this, they proposed a 600 MWe plant with an annual output of up to 5 TWh – “enough to triple the power supply in Finnmark”. The power plant will need 200-400 employees, making it a major employer in Finnmark. The power plant will produce electricity regardless of the weather, thereby improving security of supply in Finnmark, where the current power plants consist of wind power plants and hydro plants with small water reservoirs, “and where the security policy situation emphasises the need for security of supply and a Norwegian presence”.

Norsk Kjernekraft said the report submitted to the Ministry of Energy “describes local conditions for the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at Svartnes outside Vardø, and lists topics that will be described in a future impact assessment. The available information suggests that the location is suitable for the purpose.”

Vardø is an urban community with good public services and can attract the employees needed for construction and operation of the plant, the report noted. Vardø also has power lines and a substation, good road connections, ports, large areas available for both the power plant and power-intensive industry, ample access to cooling water, stable ground conditions and local political support for nuclear power.

However, due to limited grid capacity in Vardø, Norsk Kjernekraft said it will consider alternative locations in Finnmark before the impact assessment begins. Other municipalities in Finnmark that wish to investigate the possibilities of investigating a nuclear power plant are asked to contact the company.

The report noted that electricity in Finnmark is currently generated using hydro plants and wind turbines. “In periods of low wind, Finnmark is dependent on supply of power from other parts of Norway and from Finland. The nuclear power plant will produce electricity completely independently of the weather, thereby providing a significant improvement in the reliability of the power supply throughout north Scandinavia, as well as helping to cover the expected power demand.”

Norsk Kjernekraft said it intends to utilise a significant part of the excess heat from the plant “as an input factor for industrial companies, food production, district heating and others”. It said the power plant can enable the establishment of local industry, for example data centres, hydrogen production, mineral extraction, green shipping and food production.

“A nuclear power plant in Vardø will give Finnmark access to large amounts of stable power, create hundreds of jobs and provide light in the houses in a strategically important part of our country,” said Norsk Kjernekraft CEO Jonny Hesthammer. “In addition, it will help assert Norwegian sovereignty and ensure Norwegian presence. This report will be an important part of the knowledge base for the government’s announced investigation into nuclear power in Norway.”

Vardø mayor Tor-Erik Labahå said: “This is a right and important step to meet future energy needs. A nuclear power plant in Vardø will build the community in the far north-east of Norway, and it will be able to supply new industry in the entire Eastern Finnmark region.”

Norsk Kjernekraft is not limiting its investigations to Finnmark. In June 2023 a letter of intent was signed with TVO Nuclear Services (part of Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj) to jointly investigate the deployment of SMRs in Norway. This included the possible development of nuclear power in the municipalities of Aure (Møre og Romsdal county), Heim (Trøndelag county), Narvik (Nordland county) and Vardø. In November, Norsk Kjernekraf submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Oil & Energy to assess the construction of a SMR power plant in Aure and Heim. In April this year, the company launched an impact assessment of a plot of land in Øygarden municipality (Vestland county) to assess the possibility of establishing a nuclear plant based on five SMRs.

In addition, a new company, Halden Kjernekraft AS, has been set up by Norsk Kjernekraft, Østfold Energi and the municipality of Halden (Østfold county) to investigate the construction of a nuclear power plant based on SMRs at Halden, where a research reactor once operated.