Finnish nuclear law needs to enable advanced reactors

20 April 2017

The draft update to Finland's current nuclear law would fix it to meet today's European requirements and the situation here in Finland. But if Finland aims to be a leader in clean energy and climate mitigation technologies, we need a more comprehensive and open-minded update, writes Rauli Partanen.

Practically all the credible scenarios and roadmaps (for example IPCC 2014) for effective climate mitigation require a significant increase to our current global nuclear capacity. The next generation of advanced reactors, commercialising in 2020s and 2030s, aims to meet precisely the needs that Finland will be facing after cleaning up its electricity grid in the early 2020s: Producing synthetic fuels for transportation, clean heat for district heating and high temperatures for industrial processes.

By being open-minded and at the forefront of nuclear technology development, Finland can carve out a significant portion of the market for global nuclear technology and services in the future.

The next, more comprehensive update on the Finnish nuclear law should answer these future needs.

There should be a streamlined permitting and construction process for standardised small modular reactors that would be both more affordable and much faster than today. The current law makes it impractical at best to licence and build standardised small reactors for various uses.

The nuclear law needs to make it possible to experiment on building and using new reactor concepts. The current regulation is tailored almost exclusively for light water reactors, but there will be a multitude of other interesting designs entering the market in coming years.

Used nuclear fuel holds many untapped possibilities. It can be reprocessed, recycled, and used to fuel fast reactors. All the services and know-how related to these possibilities, including used fuel import and export, offer huge possibilities to sell services and expertise both domestically and abroad. The law needs to better enable these technologies and opportunities.

By being open-minded and at the forefront of nuclear technology development, Finland can carve out a significant portion of the market for global nuclear technology and services in the future. Nuclear needs to improve its public acceptance in some OECD countries if we are to mitigate climate change effectively. Finland can be at the cutting edge of advanced nuclear, along with countries like Canada, the UK, China and the US. We can gain enormous benefits by both holding on to and improving our current know-how of nuclear technologies and by allowing those technologies to be developed and implemented in Finland.

Rauli Partanen

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Rauli Partanen is a freelance writer and energy analyst who also acts as the vice chair of the board for the Ecomodernist Society of Finland.