Finnish municipal decision-makers favourable to SMRs

08 July 2024

Decision-makers in Finland's largest cities have a positive attitude towards the construction of small modular reactors in their municipalities, a survey commissioned by Finnish SMR developer Steady Energy has shown.

A multiple LDR-50 unit plant (Image: Steady Energy)

Among the municipal decision-makers in big Finnish cities, an average of 86% said they support the construction of SMRs, while only 11% are opposed. The most favourable municipal decision-makers are in Tampere (94%), Espoo (93%), Lahti (94%), Turku (91%) and Helsinki (89%).

Municipal decision-makers in Vantaa have the least positive attitude towards the construction of SMRs, although 69% of them have a very, or somewhat positive attitude.

The younger the municipal decision-maker who answered the survey, the more positive the attitude was, Steady Energy noted. According to the survey, of the municipal decision-makers aged 35 or older, all have a positive attitude towards SMRs, with 78% having very positive attitudes.

The respondents to the survey justify their positive position on SMRs primarily as a way to reduce carbon emissions. This justification was used by one in three. 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.

The survey - conducted by research company Aula Research in May-June - was carried out by e-mail and telephone interviews. A total of 184 municipal decision-makers responded to the survey, and the survey's response rate was 21%. The target was the municipal decision-makers and leading office holders of the largest cities. In addition to Steady Energy, the research was financed by Energy Industry, Energiakaupunkit, Helen, Kuopio Energia and Oulun Energia.

"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," said Steady Energy CEO Tommi Nyman. "We gathered information from outside our bubble and the results are undeniably very encouraging."

Last month, Steady Energy said it is set to start construction of its first LDR-50 district heating reactor pilot plant in Finland next year, with potential sites including the Finnish capital Helsinki and two other cities. The pilot plant will serve as a full-scale, operational model of the Finnish-designed SMR. 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 - which was spun out in May 2023 from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland - expects the construction of the first operational LDR-50 district heating plant to begin by 2028, with the first unit expected to be operational by 2030. The LDR-50 district heating SMR - with a thermal output of 50 MW - has been under development at VTT since 2020.

In Finland, more than half of the energy used for heating comes from district heating, which is mostly produced with fossil fuels, peat and biomass. Utilities are seeking ways to swiftly transit away from combustion-based heat production to new and innovative low emission alternatives such as SMRs.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News