In a historic change, Finland’s Green Party voted overwhelmingly to adopt an all-pro-nuclear stance at its national meeting.
The party manifesto now claims nuclear is a “sustainable energy” and calls for the reform of current energy legislation to streamline the approval process for SMRs (Small Modular Reactors). Finland is the first Green Party to take such a position.
“I am very happy and proud,” said Tea Törmänen, who attended the conference as a voting member as chairman of the Savonia/Karelia branch of Viite, the party’s internal pro-science group. “This is a historic moment in the history of the environmental movement, as we are the first environmental party in the world to officially abandon 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 go-ahead for the replacement of the planned Fennovoima power plant – recently canceled due to the Ukraine crisis because the supplier was the public operator Russian Rosatom – with “an equal amount of , low-carbon baseload power generation.
The Finnish Green Party holds 20 seats in the national parliament and is part of the governing coalition, holding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Environment and Climate.
Party leaders welcomed the change in the manifesto taken at the conference. “An adequate supply of low-carbon energy with a minimal environmental footprint is key to building a sustainable future,” MP Atte Harjanne told the Science Alliance.
Harjanne, who is vice-president and leader of the Greens’ parliamentary group, added: “Too often we see the debate blocked by putting renewables and nuclear against each other, when in fact we should ensure that we effectively reduce the use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. In this challenge, we need all sustainable tools: wind, solar and nuclear. The new political program of the Greens in Finland is an excellent example of this type of new thinking.
Törmänen told the Science Alliance that there was very little support for the anti-nuclear revisions proposed at the conference. She explained that voting members held up signs – yes for green, purple for no and white for abstention – to indicate their point of view. “I could barely see downvotes,” Törmänen recalls. “So it was a clear and democratic rejection within the party of these anti-nuclear statements.”
The change in the Green Party represents a victory for the Finnish Greens for Science and Technology (Viite), which was founded in 2008 as an internal party grouping to “advance science-based political decision-making”. .
Along with internal lobbying by the science-based Viite group, the shift to a more pro-nuclear stance was also driven by a shift in stance from green youth, Törmänen said. The Finnish branch of Fridays for Future, the group started by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, released a statement last December disavowing an anti-nuclear statement by Greta and other young climate leaders.
The Finnish group Fridays for Future wrote in response that: “Opposition to nuclear power will complicate and increase the already daunting task [of addressing the climate emergency].” They continued: “If we want to stop global warming below 1.5 degrees, we need all possible means, including nuclear energy, to achieve this goal.”
The latest opinion polls in Finland show a strong majority in favor of nuclear power across the country. The latest poll, conducted in 2021, showed 74% supporting nuclear, with just 18% opposed. This represents a huge change from 2011 – the day after the Fukushima nuclear disaster – when 42% opposed the technology.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine is also likely to have bolstered support for nuclear power, as Europe races to emerge from a reliance on Russian oil and gas. Finland’s Greens – along with other political parties in the country – have also reversed their position on NATO membership, now backing the impending decision. Finland is a frontline state, sharing a long border with Russia.
Image: Kernkraftwerk Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant. Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons/