Finland’s Green Party endorses nuclear power

By Mark Lynas

May 23, 2022

In a historic shift, Finland’s Green Party voted overwhelmingly to adopt a fully pro-nuclear stance at its national meeting.

The party manifesto now states that nuclear is “sustainable energy” and demands the reform of current energy legislation to streamline the approval process for SMRs (small modular reactors). Finland’s is the first Green Party to adopt such a position.

“I am very happy and proud,” said Tea Törmänen, who attended the conference as a voting member as chair of the Savonia/Karelia chapter of Viite, the pro-science internal group of the party. “This is a historical moment in the history of the green movement, as we are the first green party in the world to officially let go of anti-nuclearism.”

The action was taken at the two-day Vihreät De Gröna (Green Party) party conference, which included 400 participants representing local party groups and other interest groups from across the Nordic country. It ended yesterday in the town of Joensuu.

The approved platform also supports license extensions for existing nuclear reactors, and gives the green light for replacing the planned Fennovoima power plant — recently cancelled over the Ukraine crisis because the supplier was the Russian state-owned operator Rosatom — with “an equal amount of stable, low-carbon baseload energy production.”

Finland’s Green Party holds 20 seats in the national parliament and is part of the government coalition, holding the foreign ministry, the internal ministry and the ministry of environment and climate.

Party leaders welcomed the shift in the manifesto taken at the conference. “Sufficient supply of low-carbon energy with minimal environmental footprint is key to building a sustainable future,” Atte Harjanne MP told the Alliance for Science.

Harjanne, who is Vice chair and Leader of the Green parliamentary group added: “Too often we see the debate stuck in putting renewables and nuclear against each other, when in fact we should be making sure we efficiently drive the use of fossil fuels down as quickly as possible. In this challenge we need all sustainable tools: wind, solar and nuclear. The new policy programme by the Greens in Finland is a great example of this kind of new thinking.”

Törmänen told the Alliance for Science that there was very little support for anti-nuclear revisions put forward in the conference. She explained that voting members held up signs —yes for green, purple for no, and white for abstain — to indicate their views. “I could hardly see any no votes,” recalled Törmänen. “So, this was a clear, democratic rejection within the party of these anti-nuclear statements.”

The Green Party shift represents a win for the Finnish Greens for Science and Technology, (Viite) which was founded in 2008 as an internal party grouping to “advance political decision making that is based on scientific knowledge.”

Along with internal lobbying from the science-oriented Viite group, the shift to a more pro-nuclear stance was also driven by a change of stance from the green youth, Törmänen said. The Finland branch of Fridays for Future, the group started by Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, released a statement last December disavowing an anti-nuclear statement by Greta and other climate youth leaders.

The Finnish Fridays for Future group wrote in response that: “Opposition to nuclear power will complicate and increase the already enormous task [of addressing the climate emergency].” They continued: “If we want to stop global warming below 1.5 degrees, we need every possible means, including nuclear power, to achieve that goal.”

The latest public opinion polls from Finland show a strong majority in support of nuclear power in the country as a whole. The latest poll, conducted in 2021, showed 74 percent backing nuclear, with only 18 percent opposed. This represents a huge shift from 2011 — in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster — when 42 percent opposed the technology.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is also likely to have solidified support for nuclear, as Europe rushes to extract itself from a dependence on Russian oil and gas. The Finnish Greens — along with other political parties in the country — have also reversed their stance on joining NATO, now supporting the imminent move. Finland is a frontline state, sharing a long border with Russia.

Image: The Kernkraftwerk Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant. Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons/Avda