IEA praises nuclear's role in Finnish policy

23 May 2013

Finland's energy policy framework - including the expanded use of nuclear energy - paves the way for a more sustainable energy system in the longer term, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In a review of the country's energy policies, the IEA found that "Finland has succeeded in developing a particularly well-diversified national electricity production mix, with roughly three equal thirds of its production coming from renewable, nuclear and hydrocarbon energies respectively."

With its energy-intensive industries and its cold climate, Finland's energy consumption per capita is the highest among IEA member countries, the agency noted. However, it already has one of the lowest shares of fossil fuels in its energy mix and is on track to meet its share of the ambitious, EU-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

IEA executive director Mariavan der Hoeven commented, "Finland is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels, making security of supply a priority. Commendably, the government's principal long-term energy security goal is clearly tied to another key pillar of its energy policy - the decarbonization of its economy, largely by developing cleaner means of energy production and consumption."

In its longer-term strategy, the Finnish government has prioritized two clean energy sources - renewable energy and nuclear energy. The country aims to increase the share of renewable energy to 38% of final energy consumption by 2020. The use of biomass is expected to play a central role in meeting this target. However, the IEA said it has serious concerns about potential EU legislation regarding the sustainability of biomass.

'Ambitious' nuclear program

Finland currently has four nuclear power reactors in operation: two each at Olkiluoto and Loviisa. A third unit is under construction at Olkiluoto. The Finnish parliament issued a decision-in-principle in July 2010 for both the construction of Olkiluoto 4 by TVO and a new plant in the north of the country proposed by Fennovoima.

According to the IEA, "If all planned nuclear projects are completed, there will be seven nuclear units in operation, bolstering the output share of electricity produced by nuclear from 28% in 2010 to over 30% in 2020 and potentially up to 60% in 2025."

The IEA attributed the success of Finland's "significant" nuclear energy program to the government's "effective and inclusive planning and consenting regime, and to the high level of trust that the population has in its government."

However, the agency warned that lessons learned from the delays in the construction of Olkiluoto 3, now expected to enter commercial operation around 2015, must be taken into account for new projects, in order to meet 2020 and longer-term targets. "Regulatory issues surrounding the availability of sufficient radioactive waste disposal facilities must also be addressed, if Finland's ambitious nuclear program is to be successfully implemented," it added.

The IEA recommended that Finland continues to address energy security concerns in a "comprehensive and sustainable manner." It said that the country must, however, ensure that regulatory barriers do not impede its "key policy pillars" of bioenergy and nuclear energy.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News