Finland was once known for high tech, superior primary education and a clean environment. Until the epic failure of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear project, that is.
The fifth nuclear reactor constructed in Olkiluoto alongside two existing reactors was meant to usher in a new age. Finland was going to be the first western industrialised country to commission a nuclear reactor after the Chernobyl disaster.
The ailing nuclear industry desperately needed Olkiluoto 3. For years, lobbyists had talked about a nuclear renaissance. However, they had precious little to back up their claims.
So when the Finnish parliament debated the reactor project in 2002, the nuclear lobby did its song and dance. Olkiluoto 3 was going to provide cheap electricity to sustain Finnish industries. Finnish workers would benefit from thousands of new jobs at the construction site. The new reactor would help – no, it would be the only way for Finland to reach the Kyoto emission targets.
Very rarely have decision-makers been so monumentally deceived.
Olkiluoto 3 was supposed to start producing power this year. Now, after countless delays, the start date is set in 2012. Many doubt that even this deadline will be met.
Like so many nuclear projects before, Olkiluoto 3 has resulted in astronomical cost overruns. The original price for the reactor was three billion Euros. So far the costs have gone up by more than a half.
The reactor has not helped Finland to save energy-intensive industries. Pulp and paper industry – the traditional stronghold for the Finnish economy – has undergone a dramatic crisis. Plants have been shut down and thousands of workers sacked.
Olkiluoto 3 has been a disappointment in creating new jobs too. The most common nationality at the construction site is not the Finnish but the Polish. Good for the Poles, not so much for the Finns
Due to the prolonged delays, Olkiluoto 3 will not help Finland in meeting the Kyoto targets. On the contrary, while waiting for the new reactor to come online companies have resorted to coal condensing power – the dirtiest energy source nuclear power was supposed to replace.
Olkiluoto 3 was expected to be the showcase for a new generation of safer, more reliable nuclear reactors. In reality, the project has been riddled with safety concerns from the onset.
The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority Finland has identified 1,500 quality deviations. The Finnish, French and British regulators are demanding substantial improvements in the automation system.
Now the same nuclear industry that brought us this epic failure is offering to give us three sequels: the sixth, the seventh and the eighth nuclear reactors. And the lobbyists have no shame: they are recycling the same arguments they used to push through the disastrous fifth reactor project.
Surely Finnish parliamentarians will not fall for the same trick again.