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Nuclear Energy and Verification: Director General Grossi Meets President, Ministers in Finland


President Sauli Niinistö of Finland (left) and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi (right) hold virtual meeting following COVID safety measures in Helsinki today, 25 November 2020. (Photo: E. Perez Alvan/IAEA)

The use of nuclear energy in support of climate change goals, nuclear verification and possibilities for cooperation in nuclear safety projects in the Arctic were the main topics of discussion this morning between Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland.

“Finland and the IAEA have a common interest in nuclear safety and security [...] both globally and in the Arctic region,” Mr Niinistö said in a tweet today.

Mr Grossi and President Niinistö discussed strengthening cooperation between Finland and the IAEA, the upcoming Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and nuclear verification in Iran, including the implementation of the JCPOA agreement.

Mr Grossi also met Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari, Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä, Director General of the Energy Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Riku Huttunen and Director General of Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), Petteri Tiippana.

Discussion topics included nuclear safety and security, safeguards implementation, Finland’s energy strategy, the Agency’s initiative on Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic pollution (NUTEC Plastic), the modernization of the IAEA’s laboratories in Seibersdorf (ReNuAL), the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in countering climate change, gender parity and the IAEA’s Marie Sklowdowska Curie Fellowship Programme. To learn more about the programme, click here.

“Finland is grateful for all the IAEA support, such as the peer review services it has benefited from and will continue to benefit from in the coming years,” said Liisa Heikinheimo, who is responsible for nuclear energy as Deputy Director General of the Energy Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The IAEA offers its Member States a wide array of review services, in which an IAEA-led team of experts compares actual practices with IAEA standards in nuclear safety and security and other areas.   

Peer review missions to Finland include International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) missions in 2009 and 2012, Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) missions in 2012 and 2015 and Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) missions in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“Finland also thanks the IAEA for all the activities it has been running to assist in the COVID-19 pandemic,” Heikinheimo said. “Fortunately, during the pandemic Finland has kept operating its nuclear power plant units.”

Finland and the IAEA have a common interest in nuclear safety and security […] both globally and in the Arctic region.
Sauli Niinistö, President, Republic of Finland

Nuclear energy: the Finnish way

One third of Finland’s electricity comes from nuclear power, and it is expected to rise to over 40% by 2022, once Olkiluoto 3 , the new reactor unit currently in the final phases of construction, comes into operation. The country’s two nuclear power plants located off the shore of the Baltic Sea are among the world's most productive, according to the World Nuclear Association.

The European Union country of 5.5 million people has relied on the atom to supply power and heating to its population and energy-intensive industry since 1977. Now, Finland is an active participant in the Global Health Security Agenda, which focusses on creating resilience to the impacts of climate change. The government envisions a mix of renewable sources and nuclear energy as key in achieving its proudest goal: becoming carbon-neutral by 2035.

“Nuclear energy is part of the solution of many of the problems we have in the world, including the need for energy and the need to effectively tackle the climate change crisis,” Mr Grossi said during his visit.

Mr Grossi also visited the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd today, one of Europe’s leading research institutions. VTT has acted as the key technical support organization to STUK as concerns nuclear reactors in Finland. About 27% of Finnish innovations are completely or in part results of VTT’s expertise. The IAEA cooperates with the centre on topics such as Small Modular Reactors, fast reactor neutronics, emergency response and cancer treatment.

Today is the first day of Mr Grossi’s two-day official visit to Finland, during which he also plans to visit ONKALO, the first ever deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel under construction in Olkiluoto.

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