Public Opinion on the Hanhikivi 1 Project

Rosa Hamalainen
March 23, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: An artist's rendition of Hanhikivi 1. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Finland currently has four active nuclear power plants, with a fifth plant scheduled to be opened in June 2019, and a sixth one in the works, called Hanhikivi 1. [1] Hanhikivi 1 is being built by the Finnish electric utility company Fennovoima, who is hoping to receive a construction license this year to begin building the reactor in Pyhäjoki in Northern Finland. The plant is currently scheduled to produce electricity by 2024. [2] An artist's rendition of the planned plant can be seen in Fig. 1.

While there are generally positive attitudes towards the Hanhikivi 1 project throughout Finland, there are also several reasons the project has received pushback.

Arguments for Hanhikivi 1

The main justifications for support of this project fall into three categories: Finland's seriousness about climate change, hopes for economic benefit and the country's established nuclear waste program.

Finland's goal is to vow off coal entirely by 2030, and double its electricity production capacity in the next 25 years. [1,3] This is partially because new EU regulations state that all countries need to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2020, and partially because Finland is one of the countries getting hit by global warming the hardest, having some of the fastest increasing temperatures in the world, [1,3] Finland is tackling these goals mostly by increasing its share wood-based biomass and nuclear power. Hanhikivi 1 could be hugely helpful, providing 1200 MegaWatts or 10% of the country's electricity. [2]

What makes adding nuclear reactors enticing is also Finland's successful nuclear waste disposal systems, the program for which was started in 1983. Finland has two storage sites operating in Olkiluoto and Loviisa, which get rid of nuclear waste without reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel. The country is also in the midst of building a deep underground cave, called Onkalo, which is essentially a "massive underground tomb" made to store nuclear waste 400 meters underground for the long-term. While some sources claim that Onkalo will hold waste for the next 100,000 years, it is unclear whether this is feasible. [1] Onkalo's creator, Posiva Oy, has plans to store waste in the facility until the 2120s, after which Onkalo will be sealed and the fate of the waste will be seen. [4]

The Opposition

Those against Hanhikivi 1 have legitimate reasons as well, mainly pinpointed at the massive failure of the previous reactor Olkiluoto 3, and concerns over the Russian involvement in the new project.

The Olkiluoto 3 reactor project, the one at final stages of construction now projected to be finished in 2019, is famously disastrous, running over ten years behind schedule, and over 5 billion over budget. If that is not enough, the companies behind that reactor are now involved in multi-billion euro lawsuits over the ordeal. The threat of similar future problems for Hanhikivi 1 cause concern, one of which is potential unexpected costs from new safety regulations that keep being created. [2]

Secondly, a Russian nuclear energy company called Rosatom is the largest stakeholder in Hanhikivi 1, prompting worry for many Finns because of the tense political relations between the two countries. Rosatom is conveniently also supplying the atomic fuel and providing the reactor in Pyhäjoki. Many Finns are worried about Finlandisation, a loaded term referring to the adoption of Russian views into Finnish policy. These people believe that the Hanhikivi project may be an example of this phenomenon. However, Fennovoima's CEO Toni Hemminki swears that this is untrue, and that Rosatom simply provided the best offer for the reactor's funding. [2]


Overall, the fate of Hanhikivi 1 is yet to be seen. An important step will be Fennovoima procuring the license, which is set to happen later this year. The leadership of Fennovoima is confident that this project will avoid many of the pitfalls of Olkiluoto 3. A nuclear engineer at the site says of the project, "there are challenges, but we hope that we can show the way for others." [2]

© Rosa Hamalainen. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. Conca, "Finland's Green Party and Nuclear Power - Really?," Forbes, 17 Apr 17.

[2] R. Milne, "Finland Raises its Bet on Nuclear Power," Financial Times, 5 Jun 16.

[3] J. Spencer, "Finland's Rational Approach to Nuclear Power," The Heritage Foundation, 19 Mar 08.

[4] J. Adamson, "Onkalo Spent Nuclear Fuel Repository," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.