Nuclear needed for net-zero ambitions, Finnish minister says

08 June 2022

Europe cannot be carbon neutral and self-sufficient without nuclear energy, Finland's Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä has said. Nuclear power, he said, offers solutions - such as small modular reactors - for phasing out fossil energy.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Image: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment)

Speaking at the opening of the Nordic Nuclear Forum 2022 in Helsinki on 7 June, Lintilä said: "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. 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.

"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 the planning stage to commissioning. "TVO's Olkiluoto 3 project shows that it is worth the wait," he added.

Construction of Olkiluoto 3 began in 2005, with completion of the reactor originally scheduled for 2009, but the project has had various delays and setbacks. The EPR eventually attained first criticality on 21 December 2021 and was connected to the grid on 12 March this year. The start of regular electricity production by the plant is scheduled for September.

The Finnish public supports the use of nuclear energy, Lintilä said. "This is important because, as the end user of energy, citizens and society must have a say in energy production."

"We must 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. "The most relevant factors affecting the future of small reactors are the usual, that is safety, economics and regulation."

He noted that radioactive waste management is also a key component of future technologies. "For Finland, it is very important that nuclear waste management and the decommissioning of facilities are funded and organised in a consistent and timely manner," Lintilä said.

Finnish waste management company Posiva submitted its application, together with related information, to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment on 30 December for an operating licence for the used fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility currently under construction at Olkiluoto. The repository is expected to begin operations in the mid-2020s. Posiva is applying for an operating licence for a period from March 2024 to the end of 2070.

"The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority have started to process the licence," Lintilä said. "This is a logical result of decades of research and development work and the responsible long-term planning carried out by Posiva."

Finland's five operating nuclear reactors generate about one-third of the country's electricity.

In May, Fennovoima terminated the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Russia's RAOS Project for the planned Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant and withdrawn its construction licence application for the project.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News