A study undertaken by research company Aula Research for Steady Energy Oy has found that decision-makers in Finland’s major cities have a positive attitude towards the construction of small modular reactors (SMRs). Overall, among municipal decision-makers in big cities, 86% reported a positive attitude towards the construction of SMRs, and only 11% reported a negative attitude.

The survey was carried out by e-mail and telephone interviews. A total of 184 municipal decision-makers responded to the survey – a response rate of 21%. The cities studied were Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere, Turku, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Kotka, Lappeenranta and Pori. In addition to Steady Energy, the research was financed by Energy Industry, Energiakaupunkit, Helen, Kuopio Energia and Oulun Energia.

The most favourable municipal decision-makers were in Tampere (94%), Espoo (93%), Lahti (94%), Turku (91%) and Helsinki (89%). Decision-makers in Vantaa showed the least positive attitude at 69%. Respondents were asked about their attitude towards SMRs in general and towards SMRs being built in their home municipality. The location of the facility had little effect on the answers.

According to the party background, members of the Communist Party had the most positive attitude – 98% with no negative responses. Decision-makers from the left had the least positive attitude – 36% positive compared with 51% negative. The Greens reported 54% positive and 28% negative responses. Analysed by age, young people were more positive. However, among those aged 35 or older 78% were very positive.

Positive responses were mainly justified on the grounds that SMRs were seen as a way to reduce emissions- a third of respondents The next most important reasons were safety, self-sufficiency and security of supply. The decision-makers were also asked what methods their own municipality should use for heat production. The most popular answers were heat pumps using waste heat and SMRs.

“We know fairly well what the energy industry thinks about small-scale nuclear power in different countries: it is a cheap and emission-free form of electricity and heat production and even necessary to reach climate goals. We gathered information from outside our bubble and the results are undeniably very encouraging”, said Tommi Nyman, CEO of Steady Energy.

Steady Energy was spun out in May 2023 from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. It is developing the LDR-50 district heating SMR that has been under development at VTT since 2020. The project was part of VTT LaunchPad that supports incubator teams to develop VTT-owned intellectual property rights into fundable spin-off companies.

The LDR-50 reactor module comprises two nested pressure vessels, with their intermediate space partially filled with water. When heat removal through the primary heat exchangers is compromised, water in the intermediate space begins to boil, forming an efficient passive heat transfer route into the reactor pool. The system does not rely on electricity or any mechanical moving parts, which could fail and prevent the cooling function. The innovation was awarded a patent in 2021.

Steady Energy said in June that it will begin construction of Finland’s first SMR pilot plant next year. The pilot will serve as a full-scale, operational model of the SMR but 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. Steady Energy says construction of the first operational plant could begin as early as 2028, with the first unit operational by 2030.