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Ministers Mönkäre and Hassi on opposite sides of nuclear power issue

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Finland’s Minister of Trade and Industry Sinikka Mönkäre (Soc Dem.) sees Finland’s climate policy goals as a major reason to support the proposal for a fifth commercial nuclear reactor for Finland. Other reasons were concern about the price and availability of energy.
   
On Thursday Finland’s five-party Government endorsed the construction of a new nuclear facility in a 10 - 6 vote. The measure goes before Parliament when it returns from its winter break in early February.

Mönkäre emphasised that
Parliament will not be able to make any changes to the proposal: it will have to either pass it or reject it. If the decision is positive, a new nuclear plant could be operating already in 2010. She would not make any predictions of what the Parliament’s final decision would be.
   
According to Mönkäre Finland has two alternatives for meeting its requirements under the Kyoto Climate Treaty on limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" - one involves more nuclear power, and the other does not.
   
No matter how the vote goes, Mönkäre feels that it is a misconception to claim that nuclear energy would rule out energy conservation and the use of renewable resources.
   
In Mönkäre’s view, conservation and renewable resources will be promoted no matter what the outcome of the nuclear issue.
   
She says that the main competing models are the one in which Finland would get more nuclear energy as well as some more natural gas-fired plants, and the other, in which there would be much more electricity produced using natural gas fuel and no more nuclear energy.
   
Mönkäre sees the nuclear option as the best both economically, and from the point of view of state finances. She points out that a new nuclear power plant would be a private venture and would not involve state money at all.
   
She also rejected notions that a new nuclear power plant would have a negative impact on Finland’s international reputation. She points out that much nuclear generating capacity has been built in Europe in the past ten years: this has not always been in the form of new nuclear power plants - in many cases the output of old plants has been increased.

On the other side
, Finland’s minister of the Environment Satu Hassi (Green) was one of those who voted against a new nuclear installation. She says that there are no studies worthy of serious consideration that would suggest that nuclear energy is necessary in any way.
   
Hassi supports the option in which the use of coal would be replaced by a massive increase in the use of natural gas. This model would also include measures to limit overall consumption of energy.
   
Hassi submitted a dissenting opinion to Thursday’s decision. According to her statement, the nuclear option involves considerable risks in both the long-term storage of nuclear waste and danger of a nuclear accident. Two other ministers - Social Services Minister Osmo Soininvaara and Second Finance Minister Suvi-Anne Siimes - concurred with her opinion.
   
The main idea in Hassi’s paper was that the non-nuclear option would achieve the desired results in energy policy, and that it would be only slightly - if at all - more expensive, than the nuclear option.
   
Hassi also warned that the nuclear option would lead to more air pollution than the alternative: the basis of this argument is that with an expected massive increase in nuclear generating capacity, coal-fired plants would be replaced by those using natural gas at a much slower rate than with the non-nuclear alternative. She calculates that this means that there would be considerably more pollution from coal during the construction of the nuclear plant, as well as later, when coal plants are taken into use again as demand for energy grows.

Previously in HS International Edition:
 Divided Government votes 10 - 6 in favour of new nuclear power plant (17.1.2002)


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