Finnish nuclear start-up Steady Energy is set to start construction of its first small modular nuclear (SMR) pilot plant in Finland next year. Potential sites include the Finnish capital Helsinki and two other cities. CEO Tommi Nyman emphasizes the project’s pivotal role in achieving Finland’s carbon-neutral goals. The construction of the first operational plant is projected to begin by 2028, with the first unit expected to be operational by 2030.

Finnish technology company Steady Energy will commence construction of Finland’s first small modular nuclear (SMR) pilot plant in Finland next year a pilot small nuclear plant next year, the first of its kind in Finland and one of the only few globally. The pilot will serve as a full-scale, operational model of the Finnish-designed SMR unit. Unlike the actual power plant, the pilot unit will use an electric element to produce heat inside the reactor capsule instead of nuclear fuel. The main purpose is to test operational features and to establish the necessary supply chains with various manufacturers to construct actual plants.

Steady Energy has previously signed letters of intent for the delivery of up to 15 reactors with Helsinki’s local utility Helen and Kuopio Energy in Eastern Finland. The construction of the first operational plant could begin as early as 2028, with the first unit operational by 2030.

“Finland is taking significant strides towards a carbon-neutral future. Our emission targets are transitioning from mere plans to practical actions. These actions will also soon result in cleaner air in our cities”, says Tommi Nyman, CEO of Steady Energy.

The pilot investment is estimated to be around €15–20 million ($16–22 million, £13–17 million). Final evaluations of potential sites are underway, with a decision expected by the end of summer. Following this, detailed planning and tendering for construction will commence. After the testing phase, the facility will be used for training and research purposes.

Currently, the proposed locations for the pilot plant include Salmisaari caves in the Finnish capital Helsinki’s inner city, Huuhanmäki caves in the eastern Finnish regional center Kuopio, and the power plant sites at Kymijärvi and Teivaanmäki in Lahti, a regional capital in Southern Finland. Steady Energy’s unit, comparable in size to an upright shipping container, can be constructed entirely underground or on an existing industrial site.

“While Finland has made great progress in green electricity production, we still heat our cities with fossil fuels and biomass. Heating a large city can require a log pile the size of a football field each day. Replacing this with a small, emission-free nuclear power plant that can be installed underground will eliminate the endless lines of fuel trucks and radically reduce local air pollution,” explains Steady Energy CEO Tommi Nyman.

A significant milestone towards emission-free heating was achieved in February 2024 when the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), known globally for its high standards, removed the distance-based safety zones for new nuclear plants. This change allows small modular reactors to be located near residential areas. Given that district heating plants need to be situated close to urban areas, current city centers often house large coal, peat, gas and oil power plants. Replacing these with container-sized small nuclear units will free up valuable land for residents in the heart of cities.

“We are living in an exciting time. It is exhilarating to put Finland’s ambitious climate goals into practice,” says Steady Energy CEO Tommi Nyman.