Over the course of decades, nuclear power has polarized public opinion. As climate change progresses, more Finns have started to consider nuclear power as a sensible way of curbing climate change and replacing the energy production infrastructure based on fossil fuels that is harmful to the environment.
This is also reflected in recent surveys. For example, backing for nuclear power reached record numbers in the annual energy attitude survey by Finnish Energy. The positive change is especially pronounced among respondents between the ages of 18 and 25.
Jussi Lehto, the President and CEO of Fennovoima’s majority shareholder Voimaosakeyhtiö SF, has also noticed these results. He believes that they indicate a change in attitude that is based on rational arguments.
“Climate change has brought people to a halt. Meanwhile, many people have realized that at this point in time, nuclear power is the most sensible form of energy production with the lowest emissions. The change in attitude is speeded up by the fact that many environmental organizations have also realized this.”
Old arguments still stand
The largest shareholders of Voimaosakeyhtiö SF include Outokumpu, SSAB, Fortum, Suomen Voima, and a group of municipal and regional energy companies. The company has around twenty shareholders from all around Finland.
“Our basic idea is to provide Finnish industry with reasonably priced, emission-free energy, to level out price fluctuations in the energy market, and to ensure the security of supply. The best way to achieve this is to use nuclear power,” says Lehto, who is also the CEO of the energy company Kerava Energy Ltd.
“Such a large construction site is a very welcome boost for the entire region.
He also points out that the underlying arguments for the construction of Hanhikivi 1 have not changed in any way in the past ten years, even though the world around us has changed.
“In fact, the project is even more important and relevant now. The European electricity markets are integrating, the demand for energy will only increase, and fossil fuels must be replaced with cleaner options. We are building more capacity and a new, low-emission future. That is why the shareholders of Voimaosakeyhtiö firmly stand behind the project.”
Local support is strong
There was strong local support for the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant from the very beginning, and the support has only gotten stronger as the project proceeds. The highest ever support for the project was recorded in Fennovoima’s annual survey in 2019.
According to the survey, 76.5% of the residents of Pyhäjoki and a little over 71% of the residents of the neighboring areas support the project. The support has risen the steepest in the neighboring municipality of Raahe, where almost 78% of the residents now support the project – compared to 72.7% the year before that.
Lehto says that these figures indicate how important the Hanhikivi 1 project is, not only in Pyhäjoki, but also in the province as a whole.
“Such a large construction site is a very welcome boost for the entire region. Construction will provide employment, and the cascade effects will be felt in other industries as well. This is probably why the project is so popular in Raahe, for example: known for its heavy industry, the town will receive new power from the project.”
Pyhäjoki has been involved since the beginning
According to Lehto, local support is an absolute prerequisite for the progress of the project. People in Pyhäjoki have been favorable towards the project from the very beginning. Their opinion has not changed over the course of the years, and local cooperation has also been smooth.
“Bringing such a project to a location where public opinion is against it would not even be possible. Such an endeavor would be anything but responsible business,” Lehto emphasizes.
Support for nuclear power is on the increase
- According to Fennovoima’s survey, 71.1 % of the residents of Pyhäjoki, Kalajoki, Merijärvi, Oulainen, and Raahe are in favor of the project. Support in the entire surveyed area increased by 3.9 percentage points in 2019.
- In Raahe, 77.8 % of the residents support the project, compared to 72.7 % in 2018.
- A total of 47 % of the respondents to an attitude survey by Finnish Energy in 2019 were in favor of increasing the proportion of nuclear power. This is the highest figure ever in the history of the survey.
- Support increased the most among respondents between the ages of 18 and 25. In 2018, approximately 10 % of the respondents in this age group were in favor of increasing the proportion of nuclear power, compared to 28 % in 2019.
- Nuclear power is most popular among well-educated men.