The Finnish parliament is making some small, rather technical changes to the nuclear energy act. By accident, the parliament found a major gap in our legislation concerning third party liability on eventual nuclear accidents. [:]
A previous law from 2005 was to raise the level of the nuclear energy producer’s financial liability to a new level, based on an international agreement, the Paris Convention. The operator would have to increase its responsibility from 185 million euros to 700 million euros.
However, to its big surprise, the Parliament found that no other OECD country had ratified the Paris Convention! The law never materialized. This despite the fact that increased liability of the nuclear industry was made one of the preconditions for allowing for more nuclear energy.
The OECD countries, or rather the insurance industry, are not going to accept the requirements of the Convention. The insurance companies do not want to carry such liability over cases of “9/11” type, i.e. nuclear, terrorism. It also finds demands on compensations of cases of cancer occurring 10-30 years after the accident impossible to accept.
I kind of agree with the insurance industry. The insurers are not stupid, they have made their calculations. It has been known for quite some time that the major weaknesses of nuclear energy are the weak liability rules. The Minister of Energy, Mauri Pekkarinen, has now had to admit that the money must come from the tax-payers. How embarrassing for his ministry which is dreaming of new nuclear reactors.
This is indeed pretty disturbing in a country in which up to four nuclear reactors are in the planning phase. It is not at all guaranteed that the government and parliament will go for any of them. However, knowing the political psychology in this country all too well, it is wise to prepare mentally for a situation in which the politicians will say: “Oh, out of these four, maybe one is enough, at least for the time being.”
We Finns believe in (Finnish) engineering just as we believe in authorities of any kind. Here everything functions. This is one of the reasons why even nuclear energy is not criticized much in this country.
Finland is a target of many nuclear pilgrims today, just as it has been of people engaged in education, due to the excellent PISA results of our schools. The Finnish nuclear safety authority (STUK) is obliged to hold an international conference for the enlightenment of the adepts from all over the world who want to learn why this country manages nuclear power so well. If I can read thoughts, STUK is not entirely happy since much of the interest originates from countries which are not exactly known for their political stability, good governance and technical level like Egypt, Vietnam, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand etc.
Decisions in Finland on nuclear energy are not only of domestic nature, as our country has become an example to others. It is time to realize that nuclear energy – even according to the official estimates of International Energy Agency – cannot present a major solution to global climate change. Besides, many classical risks are still there: waste problems, transports of radioactive substances, proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism… All this has a global scale. In any case, the lifecycle of nuclear fuel requires intense international cooperation. This, by the way, is the reason why today a nuclear ship from Rotterdam on its voyage to St. Petersburg passed Helsinki in the Gulf of Finland.
Last weekend the European Green Party, at the meeting in Ljubljana, said “no thanks”
to Finnish nuclear power. It told our government to concentrate on the green energy revolution which is based on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. The European Greens were wondering if the Finns would really want to become a nuclear energy producer for Germans and other Europeans, accepting to keep the waste from that production in their country. It was also noted that Finland has an outdated mining law which has made the country the Eldorado of uranium prospectors.
The European Green Party can count as one of its major achievements the famous EU energy and climate package, proposed by the Commission in January. For the first time ever, the EU is now committing itself to binding targets of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Turning now to nuclear energy would only postpone the necessary changes.