Trainee diaries

This is why the completion of Olkiluoto 3 is so significant

The completion of OL3 has an immense impact on the Finnish energy sector, but its effects are reflected outside Finland’s national borders as well.

Once the third reactor in Olkiluoto starts up, it covers approximately 14% of all the electricity produced in Finland. Furthermore, if we also consider the plant units Olkiluoto 1 and Olkiluoto 2, which have been faithfully operating at high capacity factors for more than 40 years, the smallish island on the western coast of Finland will soon produce as much as 30% of all the electricity in Finland.

Once we add the two reactors in Loviisa to the equation, 40% of all electricity in Finland will be generated with nuclear power, which is a significant figure even on a global scale.

Olkiluoto 3 will greatly boost the production of clean energy, as it will help avoid approximately 11 million tonnes of CO2 emissions after start-up. At the same time, this will increase the amount of emission-free electricity production in Finland to more than 90%. Therefore, the phrase “Finland’s greatest climate act” that TVO uses in communication by no means an exaggeration. The environment is absolutely one of the beneficiaries here.

The changing global situation has certainly done nothing to the significance of OL3. Last year, the Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered an overhaul of the European energy flows and markets. Fear of a cold winter in Europe is higher than it has been in a long time. We have all felt this when reading our electricity bills. Finns have even avoided heating their electric saunas – and there is a high threshold for that.

On the other hand, considering all of Europe, we in the Nordic countries have had it relatively easy. It is a fact that Finland had the second cheapest market price for electricity last year, with only Sweden having lower prices. Of course, there are many things contributing to this besides nuclear power, but the significance of nuclear energy should not be belittled. Without Olkiluoto soon producing 30% of all electricity, Finland would be a much darker and colder place – not to mention the impacts on the industry and economy.

Reasonably priced energy is a real competitive advantage for us in Northern Europe. It is also a necessary one, since geography is beyond our control. In the future, we will be as far away from the population centres and markets in Europe as we are now. However, reasonably priced, stable and predictable energy production might be the deciding factor for future investments. And this is exactly what nuclear power delivers.

The Olkiluoto 3 plant unit is important for Finland and for the entire nuclear power industry as well. After a long quiet period, OL3 is the first new reactor in all of Western Europe. We should also keep in mind that the decision to build Finland’s fifth nuclear power plant was made in the early 2000s, at a time when the general attitude towards nuclear energy was much more critical than it is today.

Everyone reading the news from the energy industry must be aware of the change in attitudes. Recently, the nuclear power industry has had quite a renaissance in Europe as well as globally. Several countries have made decisions to extend the service life of their existing plant units, and some countries are even building and designing entirely new ones.

Here in Finland, a survey on attitudes towards energy shows that the support for nuclear power is historically high at the moment.  According to the survey, the overall support for nuclear power is as high as 83%, with an impressive 65% of Finns wanting to increase the amount of nuclear power and 18% considering that the current amount is appropriate. Only 11% of the respondents would reduce the use of nuclear power.

That’s basically all we need to say about nuclear power supposedly becoming obsolete.