Finnish minister says nuclear is needed to achieve net-zero

14 June 2022

Finland's Minister of Economic Affairs, Mika Lintilä, has told the Nordic Nuclear Forum 2022 in Helsinki that Europe cannot be carbon neutral and self-sufficient without nuclear energy.

"Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we are in a historical situation where we have to find energy solutions independent of the imports from Russia,” he said. “Together with climate change, this poses an enormous challenge. We need to make use of all tools and capabilities to find solutions to these challenges and increase our resilience.”

He added: “Nuclear power plays a key role in clean energy production and Finland's aim to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. This means that the use of existing power plants must continue, as is the case with Fortum's application to continue operations of its units in Loviisa, or the construction of new power plants."

Lintilä noted that construction projects take a long time from planning to commissioning. "TVO's Olkiluoto 3 project shows that it is worth the wait," he said. Construction of Olkiluoto 3 began in 2005, with completion originally scheduled for 2009, but the project faced delays and setbacks. The EPR was eventually connected to the grid in March this year and is scheduled for commercial operation in September.

Referring to Finnish public support for nuclear energy, Lintilä said: "This is important because, as the end user of energy, citizens and society must have a say in energy production." He emphasised the need to understand the dynamics of long-term investments and take this into account in the regulation of funding for the sector. “We cannot be carbon neutral and self-sufficient without nuclear energy in Europe."

Lintilä said small modular reactors (SMRs) are "one widely discussed energy solution of the future." However, he noted SMRs are not yet in commercial use but one way to prepare for them is to harmonise regulation at EU level. "The most relevant factors affecting the future of small reactors are safety, economics and regulation."

He emphasised that the management of nuclear waste is central to technologies of the future. “For us in Finland, it is very important that nuclear waste management and the closure of facilities are financed and arranged consistently and in a timely manner,” he said.

He ended his speech with “positive news about Posiva Oy, which is building the world's first facility for the final disposal of highly active nuclear waste in Olkiluoto”. Posiva applied at the end of 2021for its first operating permit for the facility for a period from March 2024 to the end of 2070. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority have begun processing the permit. “This is a logical result of several decades of research and development work and of Posiva's responsible long-term planning,” he noted. “Posiva's facility will be completed in the mid-2020s. We are pleased that Sweden also made a similar decision this year on a nuclear fuel repository. "

Finland has four operating nuclear power units – two 890MWe BWRs at Olkiluoto and two Russian supplied VVER-440s at Loviisa – which together produce 30% of the country’s electricity. Oliluoto 3 will be its fifth unit. Finland’s sixth unit, a VVER-1200 supplied by Rosatom was planned for construction in the northern Finnish municipality of Pyhäjoki but the project was cancelled in May in the eake of the hostilities in Ukraine.

Image: Mika Lintilä, Finland's Minister of Economic Affairs

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