It’s an often heard complaint among conservatives that we’d be more willing to take concerns about climate change seriously when the people making the complaints start taking it seriously. That can refer to people like Al Gore living in a mansion with a carbon footprint the size of Godzilla or to people who insist we need to stop using fossil fuels immediately while simultaneously ruling out one of the best alternatives: nuclear power.
But that kind of hypocrisy isn’t the norm everywhere. Finland currently produces about 30% of its energy from four nuclear power plants that were constructed in the late 70s and early 80s. The country is now about the start producing energy from its fifth nuclear plant. After decades of work including long construction delays, loading of nuclear fuel at the new site started in March.
“Through the fuel loading, Olkiluoto 3 is now a nuclear power plant, and we are a significant step closer to the realisation of Finland’s greatest single act for the climate,” said Marjo Mustonen, senior vice president for electricity production at TVO.
OL3 is scheduled to be connected to the grid in October this year, with regular electricity production due to start in February 2022. According to the commissioning programme, the plant will produce 1-3 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity with varying power output during the period between grid connection and the start of regular electricity production. Once operating at full capacity, the OL3 plant will produce about 13 TWh of electricity annually and meet about 14% of Finland’s electricity demand.
Once that reactor is online about half of Finland’s total energy needs will come from nuclear power. A sixth nuclear plant is currently under construction and expected to be producing power by 2029. That would bring the total nuclear output to about 60% of the nation’s power needs, putting them on the path to eliminate coal by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2035. These are achievable goals that would make American environmentalists green with envy.
Nuclear power is so popular in Finland that even the Green Party has toned down its opposition:
Last month, four municipal election candidates from the traditionally anti-nuclear Green Party in Finland published an opinion piece in which they stated that humanity no longer has the luxury of opposing nuclear power.
A year later a group called the Green League removed opposition to existing nuclear plants from its platform.
After much discussion, the Green League voted to relax its anti-nuclear stance at a recent party convention ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections set to be held April 2019. The party endorsed a technology-neutral, market-friendly attitude to cleaner energy that still rejects nuclear power for economic reasons but demands other emissions-free energy resources replace any retiring reactors.
One of the big issues often raised by environmentalists is the storage of spent nuclear fuel which remains radioactive for thousands of years. But Finland is tackling that problem as well. Last month the country broke ground on a nuclear waste repository designed to store all of the nation’s accumulated waste plus everything it can produce for the next 100 years.
The repository will be the first in the world to start final disposal of spent nuclear fuel…
The repository is in 2 billion-year-old igneous Finnish bedrock.
About one hundred deposition tunnels will be excavated during the 100-year operational period. The repository will total a length of about 35 kilometers, with each tunnel being about 4.5 meterswastenu high, 3.5 meters wide and 350 meters long, each holding about 30 canisters.
This video describes the development of the reactor and concludes with a description of the nuclear waste repository which is now being built. Finland is showing that there are realistic alternatives to fossil fuels which could help the world meet some of those big climate goals environmentalists are always warning us about. Getting there just requires a bit less anti-nuke extremism.