Bids for SMR deployment in Estonia requested

September 26, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
The Estonian flag. (Image: WikiCommons)

Moving forward with its plan for small modular reactor deployment in Estonia, Fermi Energia has issued tenders to three SMR firms—GE Hitachi (GEH), NuScale Power, and Rolls-Royce, developers of the BWRX-300, NuScale Power Module, and Rolls-Royce SMR, respectively.

Founded in 2019, Fermi Energia is an Estonian company focused on bringing SMRs to the Baltic state to address its climate and energy security goals.

In a September 15 announcement, Fermi Energia said that bids with comprehensive technical documentation needed to estimate SMR construction costs are expected by December and that technology selection will be made in February of next year. Helping prepare the call for tenders were Fermi Energia’s international partners and shareholders, the company added.

Criteria for the selection process, according to the announcement, include technological maturity, the establishment of a reference station, economic competitiveness, and the participation of Estonian companies in the supply chain. Fermi Energia anticipates signing a project development and preliminary works contract with the winning bidder.

What they’re saying: “We started selecting the technology already in 2019 . . . mapping all the companies developing new nuclear technologies, of which there were several dozen in the world at that time,” said Kalev Kallemets, Fermi Energia’s cofounder and chief executive officer. “Some of them have turned out to be more successful, and from the successful ones, in turn, we have to choose the most suitable for Estonian conditions and the electricity system, taking into account the final price of the produced electricity for the consumer. All three small reactor manufacturers participating in the bid have initiated formal construction permit procedures with the regulator in major countries, and it is believed that the first reactors of their kind to be built will produce electricity at the end of the decade. It is justified to choose the best reactor technology of the new generation, which has already proven itself, to be built in Estonia.”

Marti Jeltsov, Fermi Energia’s chief technology officer, noted that the U.S. government has provided financial support to both GEH and NuScale, while the U.K. government has invested in the Rolls-Royce SMR to the tune of £210 million (about $228 million). “All three companies have achieved design maturity over the past few years, which provides significant certainty to the feasibility of the projects,” he said. “The arrival of the new generation of small reactors on the market also gives Fermi Energia the opportunity to move ahead with the technology selection at a faster pace than planned.”

Background: According to the International Energy Agency, most of Estonia’s energy comes from domestically produced shale oil, giving it a significant degree of energy independence, but also the highest carbon intensity among all IEA countries. (There are no nuclear power facilities in Estonia.) In early 2021, the Estonian government announced plans to halt the production of shale oil by 2035 and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Fermi Energia launched a feasibility study on the suitability of SMR technology for Estonia’s electricity supply in 2019. Included in the study were four reactor designs: the GEH and NuScale units, Moltex Energy’s SSR-W300, and Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR-400.

Also in 2019, Fermi Energia signed a memorandum of understanding with GEH on possible deployment of the BWRX-300 in Estonia, and in 2021, the two companies announced a “teaming agreement” to strengthen the relationship. That same year, a similar MOU with Rolls-Royce was signed. And just last month, NuScale joined the competition by inking its own MOU with the Estonian firm.

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