Estonia joins U.S. Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program

January 24, 2022

The United States and Estonia have agreed to cooperate under the U.S. Department of State’s Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program. FIRST is a capacity-building program designed to deepen strategic ties, support energy innovation, and advance technical collaboration with partner nations on secure and safe nuclear energy infrastructure.

U.S. Embassy Tallinn Chargé d’Affaires Brian Roraff praised Estonia for its initiative in joining FIRST. “We welcome Estonia’s ambitious efforts to transition from carbon-intensive sources for power generation and to ensure the country’s energy independence,” Roraff said. “The FIRST program brings extensive expertise from the U.S. government, academia, national laboratories, and industry to Estonian officials as they explore the feasibility of nuclear technology in a manner consistent with the highest international standards of nuclear security, safety, and nonproliferation. This is a big decision, and we support Estonia’s careful consideration of all viable energy alternatives.”

According to the Minister of Environment Erki Savisaar, collaborating with the United States through FIRST program trainings will enhance the knowledge of Estonia’s specialists considering the deployment of small modular reactors and will help the country to make an informed decision on the feasibility of including nuclear energy in Estonia’s energy mix.

“We must first find out what opportunities nuclear technology offers and be aware of the responsibilities and obligations involved. As Estonia has no previous experience in the use of nuclear technology and the country lacks expertise in the respective field, the support and assistance of the U.S. government in this process is very necessary and welcome,” Minister Savisaar said. “At the same time, organising the training is in no way a sign that Estonia has already made its decision regarding nuclear energy or some specific reactor technology.”

The initial training will take place online from February to September and will focus on nuclear security, safety, and nonproliferation. Future capacity-building may address such topics as the establishment of national nuclear safety regulations, workforce development, stakeholder engagement, and site assessments of a nuclear power plant.

Building on more than 60 years of U.S. innovation and expertise in nuclear energy, FIRST provides capacity-building support to partner countries as they develop their nuclear energy programs to support clean energy goals under the highest international standards for nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation. To date, the U.S. Department of State has announced $6.3 million to support FIRST projects worldwide. In the Leader’s Summit on Climate, the Biden-Harris administration highlighted the FIRST program as one of the United States’ key efforts to promote innovation in bringing clean technologies to scale and build unprecedented global cooperation to confront the climate crisis.