Waste Management

Estonia / Geology Is Safe For Deep Geologic Repository, Says Study

By David Dalton
1 February 2021

Geology Is Safe For Deep Geologic Repository, Says Study
A mockup of a possible Fermi Energia small modular rector for Estonia. Courtesy Fermi Energia.
There are no fundamental geologic limitations to disposing of nuclear waste in deep horizontal boreholes in Estonia and a wide range of locations could be demonstrated to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency safety regulations for geologic disposal, a study concludes.

The study, by US radioactive waste storage and disposal company Deep Isolation, was commissioned by Estonia-based advanced reactor deployment company Fermi Energia which is developing proposals to deploy small modular reactors in the Baltic country.

The study examines the potential suitability of areas in Estonia considered for siting a deep horizontal borehole repository for nuclear waste. Such a repository would isolate radioactive elements from the Earth’s surface for 1.3 million years.

With Estonia aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, advanced nuclear power generation from SMRs could contribute to its carbon-neutral future, Fermi Energi said. Yet the unresolved issue of how to permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel is a major obstacle to deploying nuclear energy worldwide.

“If we are to be successful in our efforts to see Estonia become the first European Union country to deploy an SMR in the 2030s, it is important that we take responsibility now in planning for spent fuel disposal,” said Kalev Kallemets, Fermi Energia’s chief executive officer.

In November 2020, Estonia said it planned to establish a national working group to consider the introduction of commercial nuclear power generation in the northern European country.

The statement said the idea of introducing nuclear energy in Estonia had been discussed at a cabinet meeting and it was decided that a national working group should be created “to define the nation’s positions towards the issue”.

>>> Deep Isolation will present the results of the repository study as part of Fermi Energia’s one-day SMR conference, New Generation Nuclear Energy in Estonia, on 9 February 2021. Register here.

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