More than hundred candidates in the upcoming municipal elections in Finland have signed a statement calling for Finnish cities to explore the possibilities of using small nuclear reactors to provide district heating. Interestingly, among the signatories are significant numbers of Green party candidates.
District heat is used widely in Finnish urban areas. The existing system, based mostly on coal, gas, peat and biomass, needs to be overhauled in order to reduce Finland’s carbon dioxide emissions. Existing plans to replace fossil fuels and peat rely mostly on biomass. However, these plans are questioned increasingly often, both because carbon dioxide emissions of biomass are likely to be significantly higher than hitherto assumed, and because there are increasing doubts about the environmental impacts of increased logging.
Both in Finland and in Sweden, small reactors were seriously considered as a heat source until mid-1980s. These studies culminated in detailed plans for so-called SECURE (Safe and Environmentally Clean Urban REactor) unit, a simple and safe 200 MWt “water heater” that would have been installed in a cave excavated in the bedrock under Helsinki. However, decreasing gas prices and the Chernobyl accident derailed the plans. It remains to be seen whether the proposal, which I’ve translated below, will result to a resurgence of interest in SECURE-like designs – and which nuclear startup is the first to contact the candidates?
The original statement, and the list of signatories by municipality, can be found here. You may also be interested in a previous statement by four Finnish Green party candidates calling for support for both renewables and nuclear energy.
Statement by Finnish municipal election candidates:
Nuclear district heating should be included as an option in urban energy strategies
Climate change has continued to break the temperature and ice loss records. In the upcoming municipal elections [April 9, 2017] we have the opportunity of influencing greenhouse gas emissions from our cities. For example, more than half of all emissions in Helsinki are caused by district heat that is largely generated by burning coal.
Plans to replace coal with wood pellets do not reduce emissions enough. In addition, increasing wood harvests have disastrous environmental consequences.
However, a very low-carbon source of heat exist: nuclear power. New generation of mass produced small reactors are the conceptual opposites of massive prototype plants such as Olkiluoto 3. Reactors are factory-built and transported to the site, speeding up construction. They can also be passively safe, shutting themselves safely down even if all safety systems fail.
The undersigned municipal election candidates desire that the possibilities for using nuclear energy in district heating are explored. A study of practical solutions for Finnish cities can then be conducted as a joint project of participating cities.
For more information, contact
Petrus Pennanen, +358 40 502 0355, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tea Törmänen, +358 45 615 7432, email@example.com
Antti van Wonterghem, +358 50 544 7187, firstname.lastname@example.org
[As of 16 March 2017, the statement has been signed by more than 100 candidates from most of the major parties, including the Greens. The statement is still open for additional signatories.]