Let me first express my gratitude to the IAEA for organizing this Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power, which I find very topical. I also would like extend my thanks to the Government of the Russian Federation for hosting this conference in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg.
We are ready to share our experiences from the past and in the future with other interested States, particularly in the area of spent fuel and radioactive waste management, where we are at a very advanced stage.
I would like to raise a few issues that are of particular importance to Finland: 1. safety as the highest priority in nuclear operation, 2. responsible use of nuclear energy, including the waste management, 3. adequate human resource development.
In Finland, nuclear power represents a major component in the energy mix. At present, Finland’s fifth nuclear power plant unit is under construction and once completed, the share of nuclear power will increase up to 40 percent of the electricity production in Finland. In addition, political decisions in favor of the proposed construction of two new nuclear power plant units were made by the Government and endorsed by the Parliament in 2010.
Through these decisions Finland will not only improve the nation’s self-sufficiency, but will also take an important step towards low carbon energy. A diversified and sustainable energy mix including growing role of renewables is the continuous goal of our climate and energy policy.
The safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities is given high priority in Finland. In consequence of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident, Finland conducted its own, and later participated in the European Union stress tests. No immediate safety concerns at Finnish nuclear facilities were found. However, some areas were identified where safety improvements will be implemented.
It is ever more essential that in countries using nuclear energy, or embarking on nuclear power, the legislation and responsibilities of various stake holders have to be clear. Furthermore, the regulatory bodies need to be given the required authority and independence in their decision making, as well as resources to fulfil their tasks. The regulatory authority must also enjoy the trust of the citizens.
Finland is satisfied with the outcome of the Convention on Nuclear Safety Extraordinary Review Meeting held in August 2012. The meeting approved a package of measures aimed at strengthening nuclear safety worldwide. Finland is actively contributing to this work, in particular through the effectiveness and transparency working group.
Finland is strongly committed to strengthening nuclear security world-wide. Finland has ratified the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and encourages all States to do so.
Finland is putting special efforts in further improvement of security at nuclear power plants, in particular cyber and information security and nuclear security culture. Finland will host an IAEA International Workshop on Nuclear Security Culture in the fall of 2013.
The Finnish nuclear fuel cycle is based on the once-through option. Spent nuclear fuel is considered as radioactive waste, which, by law, has to be disposed of in the Finnish territory. The construction of an underground rock characterisation facility called “Onkalo”, started in July 2004. It is foreseen to operate as part of the final repository of spent fuel in solid bedrock. Spent fuel disposal at 400 m depth is scheduled to start around 2020.
Posiva-company is responsible for the final repository project. In accordance with the decision-in-principle taken by the Government in 1983 and later by Parliament decisions, Posiva filed at the end of 2012 an application for the construction of the final repository plant. The review process of the licence application has been started by my ministry and the public hearing is ongoing.
Any country using nuclear power is required to ensure sufficient infrastructure and human resources with appropriate expertise for the operators, regulatory authority and technical support organizations. The development and maintenance of the necessary expertise requires adequate education and training programmes as well as relevant research. The construction of new nuclear power plant units will remarkably increase the demand for nuclear sector experts in Finland.
My Ministry conducted in 2012, in cooperation with the main stakeholders, an extensive survey of the nuclear energy competence in Finland. Based on this survey, it is estimated about 38 % increase to the existing resources. Taking into count the retirements, this means that about 2400 new experts would be needed. As a result of this, new university programmes have been established. Furthermore, the development of a new nuclear research strategy was initiated spring this year.
I would like to conclude my remarks by emphasizing that public acceptance is a key issue for the use of nuclear energy. Public acceptance of nuclear power needs to be earned every day. It is to a great extent related to nuclear safety. Any major nuclear incident, anywhere in the world, may have major impact on the public acceptance worldwide. This underlines the importance of improving nuclear safety worldwide. Continued safe operation of nuclear power is necessary and there cannot be any exception in any State.
I can state that there is political and public acceptance and support to the expanded use of nuclear power in Finland. The development of nuclear waste management, which involves public hearings and local government veto right, certainly contributes to the public acceptance of nuclear power in Finland.