Nuclear Politics

Finland / SMRs Could Help Reduce Dependency On Russia, Minister Tells Conference

By Patrycja Rapacka
7 June 2022

‘Without nuclear we cannot be self-sufficient and carbon neutral’
SMRs Could Help Reduce Dependency On Russia, Minister Tells Conference
“Nuclear energy has a key role to play in producing carbon-free energy and in achieving Finland’s carbon neutrality target by 2035,” Mika Lintilä said.
The war in Ukraine means Finland must look for energy solutions – including nuclear – that are independent of Russian imports with small modular rectors one possible solution, economy minister Mika Lintilä said at the opening session of NuclearEurope2022 and the Nordic Nuclear Forum 2022 in Helsinki.

Mr Lintilä said Finland faces the challenge of achieving climate neutrality and “without nuclear energy in Europe, we cannot be carbon neutral and self-sufficient”.

“Nuclear energy has a key role to play in producing carbon-free energy and in achieving Finland’s carbon neutrality target by 2035,” he said.

“It is a question of continuing to operate existing nuclear power plants, as in the case of Fortum’s requests to continue operating units at Loviisa, or building new power plants.”

Mr Lintilä said nuclear construction projects take a long time from the design phase to commissioning, but the Olkiluoto-3 EPR project, which has seen a number of delays and cost overruns, shows that “good things are worth waiting for”.

According to Mr Lintilä, there is strong support for nuclear energy in Finland, but the country needs to “understand the dynamics of long-term investment and take it into account when regulating the financing of the sector”.

He said Finland is watching the discussion on SMR technology and the “harmonisation of regulations” will be key.

International collaboration is seen as essential to ensuring a harmonised approach is taken as the nuclear industry and policymakers prepare for the rollout of new technologies such as SMRs. The International Atomic Energy Agency is working on the establishment of a technology-neutral framework for safety to help harmonise international approaches to new-generation reactors.

Solutions to the management of waste from nuclear power plants are also crucial. “For us in Finland it is very important that nuclear waste management and decommissioning of nuclear power plants are financed and organised in a consistent and timely manner,” Mr Lintilä said.

Waste management company Posiva is building the world’s first high-level nuclear waste repository at Olkiluoto. Posiva applied for an operating licence for the plant in late 2021. Construction is scheduled to be completed in the mid-2020s.

According to International Atomic Energy Agency data, Finland’s fleet of four commercial nuclear plants – two at Loviisa and two at Olkiluoto – provides about 33% of its electricity production.

Further Delay At Olkiluoto-3 EPR

TVO said last month that regular electricity production from the country’s fifth reactor, the Olkiluoto-3 EPR, had been pushed back from the end of July to September 2022 – a delay resulting from inspection and possible repairs related to the cooling system of the plant’s generator.

Regular electricity production is now expected to start in September 2022. Construction began in August 2005 and has been delayed for about 10 years.

Test electricity production began at the 1,600-MW plant, supplied by an Areva-Siemens consortium, on 12 March, making it the first nuclear plant to begin operation in Europe since Romania’s Cernavoda-2 in 2007.

In May, Finnish nuclear power company Fennovoima withdrew its construction licence application for the Hanhikivi-1 nuclear power plant following cancellation of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Russia-backed project.

On 2 May, Fennovoima announced that it had terminated the EPC contract with Raos Project, a subsidiary of Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, due to “significant delays and Raos Project’s inability to deliver the project”.

The company said at the time: “There have been significant and growing delays during the last years. The war in Ukraine has worsened the risks for the project. Raos has been unable to mitigate any of the risks.”

Fennovoima said works at the Pyhäjoki site in northern Finland related to the EPC contract have stopped. Fennovoima is now focusing on “maintaining safety and security [at the site] in the short and long term”.

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