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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK
Viewpoint: Finland's new reactor
Finnish MP Mikko Elo
Mr Elo: "Nuclear power brings significant economic benefits"
Mikko Elo, an MP for Finland's Social Democrat Party, backed the country's decision in 2002 to build the first new nuclear reactor in Europe for more than a decade.

He knows better than most what nuclear power entails. His constituency already has two reactors and it will also host the new one, to be completed in 2009.

As the UK gears up for a debate on the future of its nuclear industry, Mr Elo tells the BBC News website why he thinks nuclear power is right for Finland.

Construction site of Finland's Olkiluoto 3 reactor
Finland's Olkiluoto 3 reactor is due to be finished in 2009
We need a lot of energy in Finland. We have a cold climate, long distances and an energy-intensive industry.

We make good use of almost every form of energy production. Hydropower, coal, natural gas, wood, wind and turf all play a part.

But if we are to help our economy as well as the environment, the answer has to be more nuclear power.

At the moment, nuclear provides 28% of our electricity. Once the fifth reactor is up and running, that figure will rise to 34%.

We simply could not honour our commitments to the Kyoto Protocol without it.

Economic benefits

The Kyoto Protocol is incredibly costly for Finland. We have cleaned up our factories and we use energy efficiently - but it is not enough.

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We couldn't meet the costs of Kyoto without the help of nuclear power, which is an extremely clean form of energy.

It also brings significant economic benefits to our country. Unlike other energy providers, the nuclear industry does not require state subsidies, which means the public doesn't have to pay for it through taxes.

It is also a very big employer. In my constituency, where we already have two reactors, there is very little opposition to nuclear power - and that is partly because of the economic benefits it brings.

25.1% nuclear
16.9% hydro
18.2% coal
11.7% biofuels
11.7% natural gas
7.5% peat
5.6% imports
2.1% oil
1.2% waste fuels
Source: Statistics Finland 2004
New nuclear power stations take a lot of people to build them and once complete, they employ about 300 or 400 people each.

Of course, there are problems with nuclear power that need to be understood. Waste disposal is an issue, and there is also a risk of accidents and terrorism.

Terror fears

We have decided to dispose of all our own waste, although we will not accept waste from other countries. Our experts tell us Finnish rock is very good for nuclear waste disposal - and I trust our engineers. As far as I understand it, there is very little risk involved.

I believe fear will only grow if the issue isn't discussed in public
All our reactors are guarded very carefully, but we don't regard terrorism as such a big risk in Finland. I know it is a big fear in London, but it isn't the same in Finland.

That is not to say there isn't public concern. Although 90% of people in my own constituency are in favour of nuclear power, the same does not apply nationally.

In the nationwide public polls, the opposition still has the majority. I think the best way to deal with public opposition is to be very open about the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power.

No alternative

I noticed that in Britain, politicians didn't want to discuss nuclear power before the election, but I don't think that is a good thing.

In Finland, before the elections in 1999, when nuclear power was already topical, it was a question that was put to all candidates. I believe fear will only grow if the issue isn't discussed in public.

It is not good to go behind the public's back. And I truly believe that the more people understand nuclear power, the less they will oppose it.

Looking further afield, I think nuclear power is set to become more and more prominent around the world.

If you worry about climate change then there is no other economically or environmentally stable alternative to nuclear power.


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