Finnish poll shows continued support for nuclear

13 August 2010

The majority of Finns support the continued use of nuclear energy in the country, a poll on attitudes to energy policy shows. The poll is the latest in a series that has been conducted annually since 1983.


A total of 1378 Finnish adults completed a written questionnaire between 20 October 2009 and 7 January 2010. The research was conducted for utilities Fortum and Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) by Yhdyskuntatutkimus and AF-Consult. A report on the results of the survey was submitted to Fortum and TVO in June. The Finnish Energy Industries (Energiateollisuus, ET), which is responsible for reporting the results, has now published the report's findings.


While public opinion of the use of wind, bioenergy and hydropower for the generation of energy has continued to be favourable throughout the years the survey has been conducted, "nuclear power and natural gas form something of an intermediate group of energy forms that are 'favoured with reservations'," the report says. "Respondents wanted to increase rather than decrease the use of these energy forms, but opinions already indicate some division. A little over two-fifths (44%) are now in favour of increasing the use of nuclear power, and a little over a quarter are in favour of decreasing it (26%)."


According to the report, "In practice, the other energy options and their pros and cons, as well as the development of the entire electricity generation system, are always assessed in relation to the nuclear power alternative." It adds, "Time has been in favour of nuclear power; the main emphasis of opposition rests more in minimising the number of new units instead of rejecting nuclear power entirely."


The survey has followed the general attitudes to nuclear energy, but also specifically the attitudes towards the construction of nuclear power plants. The latest survey found that 40% of respondents have a positive attitude towards the construction of Finland's latest nuclear power reactor - unit 3 at the Olkiluoto plant. Meanwhile, 40% of those questioned expressed negative attitudes. The results from the previous year's survey showed that 43% were in favour of the new unit while 36% were against it. The report suggests that due to extensive media coverage of the delays in construction of Olkiluoto 3, "when a citizen who has this information has to evaluate if the nuclear power project is 'a good thing' it can be seen that critical viewpoints are also easily achieved."


The poll was conducted before the Finnish parliament made its decision on the number of construction licences it would issue for new reactors. When asked how many construction permits should be granted for new plants 37% of respondents said that none should, 20% said one, 15% favoured two, 10% three and 9% said as many permits should be issued as there are willing constructors. This shows that some 54% of Finns favoured the issuance of at least one construction licence. In April, the parliament subsequently approved the issuance of two new plant licences.


On the issue of radioactive waste, about one-third (32%) of respondents consider its disposal in an underground repository in Finland as safe. However, almost half (48%) of people said they disagreed. In the previous survey, 31% said they approved of geologic disposal, while 44% did not. The report noted that, as the level of support/disapproval of geologic disposal had remained fairly stable over the past decade, these figures "show that attitudes toward nuclear waste are not directly connected to support of nuclear power in general."


Two-thirds (68%) of those questioned agreed that nuclear waste to be "a continuous threat to the life of future generations." The survey found that 42% of respondents believe that nuclear waste should be kept in interim storage until new solutions are available for its disposal, rather than using geological disposal.


A majority (61%) of respondents think that the use of nuclear power is justifiable because it diminishes dependency on oil and other fossil fuels, while 23% disagree. The report says, "The environmental image of nuclear power has been improved by the discussion about the climate and the increases in the negative attitudes towards fossil fuels."


Overall, 57% of Finns said that the country has had a good experience with nuclear energy, while only 12% said that it had not.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News