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Finns split over more nuclear power option

1 May 2002 – Finland remains divided over plans to expand the amount of nuclear power production in the country, according to an opinion poll released Tuesday.

The poll, carried out by the agency Taloustutkimus for Social Democratic paper Uutispaiva Demari showed that 44 per cent of the 1500 Finns surveyed were in favour of building a new plant while a similar percentage opposed the plans and the rest undecided.

Finland currently generates 27 per cent of its electricity at two nuclear power plants each operating two reactors. Power company Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO) has applied to build a fifth reactor. The application has been allowed to proceed by the government and will be the subject of a vote in parliament on 24 May.

Proponents of the fifth reactor see it as the best way for Finland to meet its rapidly growing demand for electricity and at the same time comply with Kyoto commitments. In 2000, the total electricity consumption was 79.1 TWh in Finland. The electricity demand in 2010 is estimated as 92 TWh.

Opposition comes from those who believe the risks involved are too high and that the question of nuclear waste disposal is still unanswered.

The fact that Finland is even considering extending nuclear power production runs contrary to the overwhelming trend in Western Europe, which is towards phasing out nuclear power. Near neighbours Sweden and Germany have outlawed new nuclear generation and have instituted a programme to close existing facilities over a period of time.

According to the recent poll, keenest in favour of building more nuclear power plants were supporters of the Conservatives and the Social Democrats, the two main groups in the country’s five-party coalition.

Opposition was strongest among supporters of the Left Alliance and the Green Party, junior members of the coalition.

The party positions were roughly in line with a previous poll of members of parliament published earlier in the month.

Four parliamentary committees have been examining the application. So far the outcome remains balanced with the Parliamentary environment committee predictably coming out against the proposal saying that it would encourage increased electricity consumption, retard development of renewables, and lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions but a second committee agreeing with case for a fifth reactor.