We advised the Estonian Ministry of Climate on the possibility of introducing nuclear energy to Estonia, by analysing the necessary legal framework and conducting a human resources study in cooperation with the University of Tartu. The report provides the necessary information for developing a national nuclear law and mapping out requirements for the key organisations that play roles in developing a nuclear energy programme in Estonia.

The Estonian Nuclear Energy Working Group (NEPIO), established by the Estonian Ministry of Climate in 2021, studied a total of 19 sectoral issues related to nuclear infrastructure, following the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) evaluation methodology, “Roadmap for the Development of National Nuclear Infrastructures.” In order to identify Estonia’s readiness for the introduction of nuclear energy, nuclear safety, radiation and environmental protection, potential locations, legal framework, emergency planning and radioactive waste management, among other issues, were studied.

According to the IAEA, Estonia can continue with its nuclear programme

On 23–30 October IAEA experts reviewed the results of the analyses of the Estonian Nuclear Energy Working Group to assess Estonia’s initial readiness to implement nuclear energy. The working group will finalise a comprehensive assessment of the prospective introduction of nuclear energy by the end of this year.

“Estonia is well-organised in its preparations for 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.

The inclusion of external experts in the analysis process was highlighted as good practice. The strategy of supporting the development of the country’s human resources in order to ensure the short- and long-term success of the nuclear energy programme, and the two-step approach to recruiting staff for the nuclear regulator, where some of the expertise required by the regulator is brought from foreign countries in the early years, were also praised. “Creating a regulator means Estonia will be able to create a competence centre, which will help to improve nuclear expertise and will be a substantial partner in carrying out the subsequent necessary procedures,” adds our real estate and construction expert Sandra Mikli.

The Parliament of Estonia will make a decision in 2024 on the introduction of nuclear energy

Antti Tooming, undersecretary at the Ministry of Climate and head of the national working group on nuclear energy, said he welcomes the report, which will be integrated into the final report of the Estonian working group. “The mission reassured us that we are on the right track in our nuclear energy considerations and provided valuable information for the next phase of follow-up if Estonia decides to adopt nuclear energy.” However, since the next phases of the nuclear programme require major investments, the decision should be made by the second quarter of the year at the latest.

The transition to nuclear energy is one of the possible solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality. It is backed by the 22 countries that signed an agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai to triple nuclear capacity by 2050.

Our services and client team

The report prepared by our team contributes to the comprehensive study led by the Nuclear Energy Working Group, supporting the Government of Estonia in making an informed decision on embarking on a new nuclear power programme. Our client team was led by senior associate Sandra Mikli and supported by associate Liisa Kähr.