Fact Sheet

Estonia Overview

Estonia Overview

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Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940, Estonia was home to major Soviet nuclear and military facilities. After it regained its independence in 1991, Tallinn dismantled many of the Soviet-era facilities and joined international treaties, regimes, and organizations, including both NATO and the European Union in the spring of 2004.

Nuclear

Estonia is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has an Additional Protocol in force with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Estonia boycotted negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and has not signed nor ratified the Treaty. [1]

Estonia played an important role in both the civilian and military nuclear programs of the former Soviet Union. The four nuclear-related facilities in Estonia are the Sillamae Metal and Chemical Production Plant (known as Silmet), the Paldiski nuclear reactor training facility, the Tammiku and Saku waste depositories, and the Dvigatel factory. Currently, Estonia has no operating nuclear power reactors. The two waste depositories ceased operation in 1996 and are now undergoing decommissioning. [2]

Established in 1946 for the production of uranium oxides, Silmet produced over 100,000 tons of uranium for almost 70,000 nuclear weapons, and operated in complete secrecy for several decades. [3] Uranium ore for the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapon was refined at Silmet. [4] In 1990, Silmet stopped refining uranium ore and focused exclusively on the production of rare-earth metals. [5] In October 2008, the firm responsible for disposing of radioactive waste at the Silmet site announced that it had successfully completed cleanup. [6] Paldiski was the site of a Soviet (and subsequently Russian) naval base from 1968 to August 1994, and housed two pressurized-water submarine training reactors. [7] The Russian government removed and sent to Russia the 20% enriched uranium fuel, dismantled the reactors, and encased them in a concrete sarcophagus before transferring control of the facility to Estonia in 1995. [8] In 2014, the Estonian government approved funds to undertake the preliminary research necessary for the final dismantlement of Paldiski and to establish a storage system for waste. [9] Dvigatel was established in 1897 as a rail-car production facility, which during the Soviet era fulfilled complex state equipment orders for the nuclear and space industries. [10] Formerly one of the largest enterprises in the Soviet Union's military-industrial complex, Dvigatel was privatized in early 1996, and was later turned into an industrial park. [11]

The IAEA, the United States, Norway, Sweden, and other states have aided Estonia in improving safety and security at nuclear-related sites and in managing radioactive waste. [12] The United States has also provided equipment and training to improve Estonia's export control system. [13] As a condition of joining the European Union in 2004, Estonia upgraded its export control system; improvements included the addition of a catch-all clause and the development of an electronic license application system. [14]

In October 2006, the utility companies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania released a joint feasibility study calling for the construction of a new nuclear facility to replace Ignalina-2, which closed in December 2009, with the goal of reducing Baltic dependence on imported Russian energy. [15] However, since then, there were no significant changes. As of 2020, site selection for Estonia's first nuclear power plant is underway. [16]

Biological

Estonia acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in June 1993, and is a member of the Australia Group. There is no evidence to suggest that Tallinn possesses or is pursuing biological weapons capabilities.

Chemical

Estonia is a founding member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and a member of the Australia Group. There is no evidence to suggest that Tallinn possesses or is pursuing chemical weapons.

Missile

Estonia is a party to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.

On February 15, 2020, the United States delivered 128 anti-tank Raytheon Javelin missiles to the Estonian Ministry of Defense and Estonian Defense Forces as part of a larger contract signed by the Estonian Center for Defense Investment and the U.S. Department of Defense. [17]

Sources:
[1] Estonia, Nuclear weapons ban monitoring logo, www.banmonitor.org.
[2] Merle Lust, "Building up the radiation protection infrastructure in Estonia," 2008, International Nuclear Information System, www.iaea.org; "Details on Nuclear Waste Death Incident," JPRS-TEN-95-003, 24 February 1995, p. 55.
[3] Kristjan Kaljund, "A Catastrophic Legacy," Transitions Online, 2 March 2000, www.tol.org; AS Silmet website, www.silmet.ee.
[4] Ann MacLachlan, "Estonia to Take Title to Cleaned Ex-Soviet Nuclear Training Site," Nucleonics Week, 7 September 1995, p. 7.
[5] AS Silmet website, www.silmet.ee.
[6] Anneli Reigas, "Estonia cleans up Soviet era radioactive waste dump," Agence France- Presse, 20 October 2008.
[7] Saulius Girnius, "Russia Hands Over Paldiski Base to Estonia," OMRI Daily Digest, 27 September 1995, p.1.
[8] "Russians Remove Rods from 2d Paldiski Reactor," FBIS-SOV-94-197, October 10, 1994; "Case Studies," Base Closure and Redevelopment in Central and Eastern Europe, Bonn International Center for Conversion Report II, July 1997, pp. 62-63.
[9] Ministry of the Environment, "Paldiski nuclear object to be decommissioned using funding from the European Union," Press release, Government of the Republic of Estonia, August 21, 2014, www.envir.ee.
[10] Yaroslav Tolstikov, "Dvigatelyu' – 100," Molodezh Estonii, 7 May 1999.
[11] Yaroslav Tolstikov, "Dvigatelyu' – 100," Molodezh Estonii, 7 May 1999; Marina Sergeyeva, "Yadernoye sotrudnichestvo s etnicheskim podtekstom," Kommersant, 18 May 1996, p. 4; "Production and storage buildings, Dvigatel Industrial Park," Merko Ehitus Construction, 6 February 2003, www.merko.ee.
[12] "Nuclear Safety," GAO/RCED-96-4, p. 29; "European Union to support Estonia's preparations to join the EU with 400 million kroons," Delegation of the European Commission, 12 November 2002, www.euroopaliit.ee.
[13] NIS Export Control Observer, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, June 2004, www.nonproliferation.org; "Estonia receives weapons detection devices," Baltic Times, 25-31 May 2000, p. 4.
[14] Scott Jones, "EU Enlargement: Implications for EU and Multilateral Export Controls," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2003; University of Georgia's Center for International Trade and Security (CITS) correspondence with Toomas Raba, Export Control Commission, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 2003.
[15] "Baltic utilities say new nuclear is best new capacity choice," Nucleonics Week, 26 October 2006; Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, www.iae.lt.
[16] “Search for location of Estonia's first nuclear power plant underway,” 24 January 2020, www.news.err.ee.
[17] Press Release: U.S. Delivers Javelin Missiles to Estonia, U.S. Embassy in Estonia, 2 April 2020, www.ee.usembassy.gov.

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Glossary

Dismantlement
Dismantlement: Taking apart a weapon, facility, or other item so that it is no longer functional.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance that was formed in 1949 to help deter the Soviet Union from attacking Europe. The Alliance is based on the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949. The treaty originally created an alliance of 10 European and two North American independent states, but today NATO has 28 members who have committed to maintaining and developing their defense capabilities, to consulting on issues of mutual security concern, and to the principle of collective self-defense. NATO is also engaged in out-of-area security operations, most notably in Afghanistan, where Alliance forces operate alongside other non-NATO countries as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). For additional information, see NATO.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. The principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process. See entry for Information Circular 540.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Ratification
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Radioactive waste
Radioactive waste: Materials which are radioactive and for which there is no further use.
Pressurized water reactor
A reactor in which the water which flows through the core is isolated from the turbine, unlike in a boiling water reactor. The primary water, contained in one loop, travels through an additional heat exchanger (or steam generator) and produces steam in the secondary loop which, in turn, powers the turbine. See entry for Boiling water reactor
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Dismantlement
Dismantlement: Taking apart a weapon, facility, or other item so that it is no longer functional.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Australia Group (AG)
Australia Group (AG): Established in 1985 to limit the spread of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) through export controls on chemical precursors, equipment, agents, and organisms. For additional information, see the Australia Group.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The OPCW: Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). All countries ratifying the CWC become state parties to the CWC, and make up the membership of the OPCW. The OPCW meets annually, and in special sessions when necessary. For additional information, see the OPCW.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
HCOC
The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), formerly known as The International Code of Conduct (ICOC), was adopted in 2002. The HCOC was established to bolster efforts to curb ballistic missile proliferation worldwide and to further delegitimize such proliferation by fostering consensus among states on how they should conduct their trade in missiles and dual-use items.

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