Kiev April 24th 2006
MEP Satu Hassi, former Minister of Environment:
Finland´s nuclear decision – myth and reality
Myth: Rational decision to protect climate.
Reality: After Parliament´s nuclear vote Kyoto was blamed and promises to promote renewable energy forgotten.
Nuclear lobbyists are telling that Finland is building a new nuclear power station after a transparent and rational decision making process in order to protect climate, to meet the Kyoto target of the country.
In reality even the Government documents tell that a safer and cleaner energy alternative would have been available, and that the economic advantage of the nuclear option was marginal, if any. The nuclear lobbyists used a skillfully designed scaremongering campaign of freezing homes and energy dependency of Russia, in case the Parliament would reject the nuclear proposal. After the nuclear vote of the Parliament many of the key people who had used Kyoto as their argument for nuclear power, started to blame Kyoto as a big mistake, as an unfair, even disastrous deal for the country, and started to demand stepping out of Kyoto.
What was told before the nuclear vote and what really happened afterwards is a sad story of broken promises.
I was minister of environment in the second cabinet led by Prime Minister Lipponen. This cabinet was formed after elections in March 1999. It was a coalition of 5 parties, one of them my party, the Greens. One of the first decisions of this cabinet was to prepare a national Kyoto strategy to identify measures to meet our Kyoto target. The Ministry of Trade and Industry, which is also responsible for energy, was the leading this work, under Ms Mönkäre, the minister, Social Democrat.
The Kyoto Strategy by the Government was presented to the Parliament in spring 2001. Two alternative scenarios for electricity production were presented. Both met Finland´s Kyoto target for the years 2008-2012 (to bring the emissions back to the level of the year 1990), and the projected power demand. The non-nuclear option was based on 3 main elements: promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy and replacing coal with natural gas. Also the nuclear option promoted renewable energy and efficiency, but not as much as the non-nuclear option.
An economic comparison between these two scenarios was presented. The basic assumptions of this comparison were to some extent biased. E.g. no technology development leading to lower prices of new energy technology was assumed. This way the nuclear option seemed slightly more cost efficient than the non-nuclear option, but the difference was just marginal, between 0,1 – 0,3 % of GDP in the year 2010. For an average family this difference means just some tens of euros per year. But in the media nuclear power was presented as the cheap, even cost free way of climate protection, whereas the non nuclear option was presented as something extremely costly.
One of the basic assumptions of the economic scenarios which made the nuclear option to seem slightly more cost efficient was that in this option burning of coal was not reduced before 2008-2010. Therefore the projected carbon dioxide emissions of the nuclear option were bigger than those of the non-nuclear option, according to Ministry of Trade and Industry. So, in the projections the nuclear option seemed slightly cheaper but also dirtier. But the carbon dioxide emission graphs revealing this were not included to the report given to the Parliament.
Next year, in January 2002 the Government majority proposed to the Parliament to give a principal permission for a new nuclear power station. The Greens and the Left Alliance in the Government coalition voted against, together with one Social Democrat.
In the Parliament the vote was free, without party discipline. The discussion in the Parliament was not based on the Kyoto Strategy of the previous year. They point was not, if we are willing to pay the marginal extra cost of the non-nuclear Kyoto scenario. The argumentation of the nuclear side was scaremongering. They said without new nuclear capacity we would face electricity shortage in wintertime when it can be -25 oC or colder, and the homes would freeze. Finland would become too dependent on natural gas and electricity imported from Russia, our traditional enemy.
Several experts heard in the committees of the Parliament showed that the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy is far bigger than presented in the Government´s Kyoto Strategy. E.g. forest biomass potential was estimated to exceed the official Kyoto Strategy level by 400 to 800 MWe. Offshore wind turbines producing the same amount of electricity as a 1000 MWe nuclear power station would need only 300-350 km2, which is 0,1 % of the area of the country. Replacing direct use of electricity for heating houses with heat pumps in 50 % of the one family houses would save the equivalent of 1000 MWe power station, etc. Environmental NGOs published their own Kyoto scenario based on expert reports done for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and showed the same, the potential for clean energy technology is far greater than presented in the official Kyoto Strategy. Unfortunately the media hardly mentioned these alternatives. Instead there were lyric descriptions of windmills slaughtering massive amounts of migrating birds, including endangered species.
Nobody questioned Kyoto before the nuclear vote of the Parliament. The Parliament ratified the Kyoto Protocol unanimously on May 8th 2002. All stakeholders, including industry and trade union representatives gave their green light for Kyoto. This is all documented in the protocols of the Environment Committee of the Parliament.
In May 24th 2002 the Parliament voted and gave the permission for the 5th nuclear power station, with 107 votes out of 200. The Greens decided to leave the government coalition.
Very soon after the Parliament´s nuclear vote the very same industry and trade union leaders who had been lobbying for nuclear power using Kyoto as one of their main argument, made a U-turn. They started to present Kyoto as something extremely unfair and even catastrophic for our small, brave and clean country, something that Green environment ministers (Pekka Haavisto 1995-1999 and Satu Hassi 1999-2002) have negotiated behind the backs of the rest of the Government. They started to demand stepping out of Kyoto. One formed President of the Confederation of Finnish Industry has said that the Green ministers have mislead the industry on Kyoto. One of our trade union leaders has said that Kyoto is a hangman´s noose for the Finnish industry prepared by Green ministers. Still in 2006 this message is told in Finnish newspapers almost weekly.
Broken promise 1: Meeting Kyoto target with domestic measures
Since the nuclear vote Finland´s greenhouse gas emissions have been rising, except in 2005, which was the first year of EU CO2 emission trading – which Finland opposed. Before the nuclear vote all Kyoto scenarios were based solely on domestic measures, nobody proposed using Kyoto flexible mechanisms, buying emissions rights from other countries.
The present Government, led by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Center Party) has decided not even to try to meet our Kyoto target with domestic measures and the industry emissions trading. The Government has decided to buy emissions rights from other countries, with taxpayer’s money. This is documented in the updated Climate Strategy given by the present Government to the Parliament last autumn.
In other words Finland is subsidizing emissions instead of emission reductions.
Broken promise 2: Promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy
Before the nuclear vote of the Parliament the nuclear side swore that choosing the nuclear option will not lead to weaker but to more determined promotion of energy eff
iciency and domestic renewable energy.
After the nuclear vote, the Government set up two working groups to identify new measures. When the reports were published in December 2002, in practice no new measures were proposed. The projections prepared in these working groups showed that with the proposed measures Finland is not going to meet her Kyoto target by domestic means. The funding promised in earlier renewable energy promoting program has not been allocated.
The studies by the EU Commissions show very clearly that feed-in tariff is by far the most effective measure to promote investments in renewable energy production. Finland has deliberately chosen to not use this, but more ineffective means instead.
The Finnish system to support wind power subsidizes only new prototypes, not “normal” wind turbines for electricity generation. In Finland the net increase of wind power capacity was 30 MW in 2004 and 0 MW in 2005. Among EU 15 the two countries with smallest wind capacity are Luxembourg and Finland.
Broken promise 3: Reducing dependency on fossils
Before the nuclear vote those advocating nuclear power said that nuclear is the only realistic large scale alternative to fossils.
After the vote the Government has not only been lax in replacing fossils, but is even planning to subsidize fossils. The only domestic fossil energy source of Finland is peat. All Governments have been very determined to not use feed-in tariff to promote renewable energy. Now the Government is planning to use feed-in tariff to promote using of peat production, because EU emissions trading has reduced the burning of peat in power stations.
The present Government has also decided to reduce energy tax for farmers, both diesel and electricity tax. This means reducing the incentive to choose renewable energy instead of fossils, because energy produced from renewable sources is not taxed. This means subsidizing the old fossil dependent agriculture, instead of promoting biomass energy, which is new source of income for rural areas.
Broken promise 4: Not compromising safety
Before the nuclear vote the nuclear side said that of course we will be very strict on safety.
But there are serious reasons for concern. The chosen reactor type is a prototype. According to John Large, the process of safety analysis by the Radiation Safety Authority was extremely rapid. Finnish news in the last months has told that the concrete used for the basement of the power station is too porous. When the reason for this was analyzed, it turned out that the main constructor has failed to give the necessary safety education for the workers of the sub-constructors. The construction work is delayed by at least 6 months.
Broken promise 5: Reducing energy import from Russia
Before the nuclear vote in 2002 one of the most effective scaremongering arguments of the nuclear side was that nuclear energy is our only way to reduce energy dependency from Russia. The nuclear side blamed the others for preferring import of Russian electricity produced in dirty power stations, including the dangerous Sosnovy Bor nuclear power station, with 4 reactors of Chernobyl type, 1000 MWe each, just 200 km from Helsinki.
In reality our electricity import from Russia has slightly increased after 2002.
Now the energy intensive industry is proposing a new electricity transmission line between Finland and Russia. The capacity of the new line would be 1000 MW and it would almost double the transmission capacity from Russia. The cable would be built under the Gulf of Finland, directly from Sosnovy Bor. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has set a number of criteria which must be fulfilled before the license can be granted. The way of electricity production is not among these criteria.
The company United Power who advocates the cable project does not even try to hide the link to Sosnovy Bor. In a press conference in Helsinki in April 19th 2006 they justified the cable saying that in the region around Sosnovy Bor there is not enough demand for electricity, therefore one of the reactors is for the moment not operating.