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IAEA Reviews Estonia’s Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development

Tallinn, Estonia

INIR team leader Eric Mathet from the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section presents the INIR mission report to Antti Tooming, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Climate and Head of the Nuclear Energy Working Group. 

Estonia has developed a comprehensive assessment of its nuclear power infrastructure needs to enable the government to decide whether to launch a nuclear power programme, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said today.

The IAEA team concluded an eight day mission to Estonia to review the country’s infrastructure development for a nuclear power programme. The Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) was carried out at the request of the Government of Estonia.

Estonia, seeking to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, is looking at nuclear power as a reliable and low carbon option to diversify its energy mix by 2035 when the country plans its phase-out of domestic oil shale. The plans for nuclear energy are focussed on the deployment of small modular reactors (SMR) as a solution for climate-neutral electricity production and security of energy supply.  SMRs are the focus of increased global interest due to their ability to meet the need for flexible and affordable power generation for a wider range of users.

A Nuclear Energy Working Group was established in 2021 by the government to review the nuclear infrastructure required for the nuclear power programme. Its comprehensive report – planned to be finalized in December 2023 – will provide recommendations to support the Government to make a decision regarding the nuclear energy programme.

The INIR team comprised of three international experts from Brazil and the United Kingdom, as well as six IAEA staff. It reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues using the IAEA evaluation methodology for Phase 1 of the Milestones Approach which evaluates the readiness of a country to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power programme.

The mission team noted good practices in Estonia’s approach. It has commissioned a comprehensive set of detailed studies with the support of external experts as part of its assessment to be presented to the Government to support a knowledgeable decision. The team also said the country’s strategy to support future human resource development aims to ensure the short-term and long-term success of the nuclear power programme. Finally, the inclusion of a review of possible locations for the geological disposal of spent nuclear fuel in its assessment will help provide greater confidence to the public in Estonia’s ability to manage waste disposal.

“Estonia is well-organized in its preparations towards the decision on launching a nuclear power programme to support the country’s just transition towards net zero carbon emissions,” said Eric Mathet, Operational Lead of the IAEA Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section and Team Leader for the mission. “During the cooperative and open discussions held over the past days, we observed the strong commitment from Estonia’s highly motivated and competent professionals to developing the infrastructure needed for a nuclear power programme.”

The team said that Estonia now needs to finalize its comprehensive report to support the decision on a potential nuclear power programme, including with clear timelines for the major activities. The team also found that Estonia needs to complete its plans and policies and give further consideration to the development of its legal and regulatory framework to support the next phase of the programme.

Antti Tooming, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Climate and Head of the Nuclear Energy Working Group said he welcomed the team’s findings which will be integrated into the working group’s comprehensive report. “The mission provided us with reassurance that we are on the right track with our nuclear energy considerations and gave us valuable insights for follow-up activities in the next phase if Estonia decides to embark on nuclear power.”

Based on the outcomes of the INIR Mission, the IAEA and Estonia will develop an Integrated Workplan to provide coordinated support in line with the future development of the country's nuclear power programme. 

About INIR Missions

INIR missions are based on the IAEA Milestones Approach, with its 19 Infrastructure Issues, three phases (consider, prepare, construct) and three milestones (decide, contract, commission and operate). INIR missions enable IAEA Member State representatives to have in-depth discussions with international experts about experiences and best practices in different countries.

In developing its recommendations, the INIR team considers the comments made by the relevant national organizations. Implementation of any of the team's recommendations and suggestions is at the discretion of the Member State requesting the mission. The results of the INIR mission are expected to help the Member State develop an action plan to fill any gaps, which in turn will help the development of the national nuclear infrastructure. INIR follow-up missions assess the implementation of the recommendations and suggestions provided during the main mission.

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