Because of Olkiluoto 3, the first new nuclear power plant in the European Union since Chernobyl, many Finnish governments have collapsed.
Why? In Finland, a new nuclear power plant went into operation on Tuesday night, Olkiluoto 3. Nuclear power plant has a long history: the decision to build it was in 2002. Finland was the first country in Europe to plan a new nuclear power plant after the Chernobyl disaster. The construction caused several government crises, costing the equivalent of 11 billion francs. Completion took 13 years longer than planned.
Why did it take so long to build? It took a total of 19 years from the decision to build to commissioning. “There are technical and political reasons for this,” says Northern Europe correspondent Bruno Kaufmann. On the other hand, the nuclear power plant is a new type of power plant, the so-called European pressurized water reactor (EPR). On the other hand, the political pressure on security has always been great with the new requirements. That’s why you can’t build as fast as you want to.”
To this day, peat is burned in Finland to produce electricity.
Why does Finland depend on new nuclear power plants? In many countries, nuclear technology has been phased out since the Fukushima disaster, but not in Finland. This is due to the fact that renewable energy sources are very limited there, according to Kaufman. “To this day, for example, peat is burned to produce electricity.”
On the other hand, there is proximity to Russia. “Finland has been dependent on Russian natural gas for decades, but has been dependent on nuclear power since the 1970s in cooperation with its big neighbor to the east.” In Finland, when it comes to complying with climate goals, it is assumed that new nuclear power plants could be a solution.
How do the people of Finland feel about it? Especially in the beginning, when the building was approved, Kaufman said, there was a lot of skepticism. But the Finns are a pragmatic people. “Now that the power plant has been built and a lot of money has been invested, the attitude towards this nuclear power plant is actually more positive than it was before.” According to the latest surveys, 40 percent of the population see nuclear energy positively.
There are hardly any renewable energies in Finland
Finland has many lakes, but the terrain of the country is very flat. You cannot operate large hydropower plants with it. The winds are also not as strong as neighboring Sweden, Denmark and Norway, for example. Finally, there is solar energy. The sun in Finland also shines, but it remains dark for a long time, especially in winter, when families need a lot of electricity and heat.
Only about 20% oppose it. “Commissioning comes in handy,” explains a Northern European correspondent. The nuclear power plant will cover about 15 percent of the electricity demand. “This is a welcome development, especially now that electricity prices are soaring in Northern Europe.”
What about radioactive waste? “Here too, Finland has made progress,” Kaufmann said. “At the Olkiluoto site in the southwest of the country, a radioactive waste repository has been under construction for a long time, and it is hoped that it will be operational in 2025.”
The waste must be able to be stored there for at least 100,000 years. But it is also important that “the population in this region is open to nuclear energy through the already existing large power plants, and in this sense they have also agreed to this repository.”
Are more nuclear power plants planned? Two more nuclear plants will be built in Finland. The government is sticking with these plans — despite the cost overrun in Olkiluoto 3. “Permits are so far on track,” Kaufman says. “However, there is no construction on it yet, it concerns new reactors in northern Finland, as well as by sea again.”
Is Olkiluoto 3 the last nuclear power dinosaur or the start of this controversial energy production renaissance?
Ultimately, Kaufman says, it’s also simply about money, the business model for nuclear power plants. “The big question that now arises, for Finland and the world as well, is: Is Olkiluoto 3 the last nuclear-powered dinosaur or the beginning of a renaissance for this controversial energy production?”
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