Director-General Huttunen at launch of NNF2021: Developing nuclear energy requires closer international regulatory cooperation

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 8.6.2021 12.08 | Published in English on 9.6.2021 at 15.19
Press release
Riku Huttunen

The international business event for the nuclear energy industry, Nordic Nuclear Forum (NNF), will be held on 8–10 June 2021. The virtual event will bring together hundreds of experts from around the world. FinNuclear ry, in cooperation with its Finnish partners and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), organises the event.

In his opening speech, Director-General Riku Huttunen from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment emphasised the key role of nuclear energy as an emission-free energy source in combating climate change. He also emphasised the ‘safety first’ principle in the regulation and use of nuclear power and in the development of new technologies. National and international legislation must also keep pace with these developments.

“Nuclear power plays an integral and growing role as an energy source in Finland. In order for Finland to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, we must be able to use all clean energy technologies,” Huttunen said.

“Policies and legislation should be neutral when it comes to choices between sustainable energy sources. That is why it is alarming to follow the European discussion on sustainable financing and taxonomy. It should be evident to all that the same sustainability criteria apply to all energy sources,” Huttunen said.

“However, the European Commission has split its delegated Act on taxonomy into two by postponing the rules on gas and nuclear energy to a later stage. This makes it very difficult to make an overall assessment of the Act and for EU Member States to take a position on it. Instead of political considerations, technological neutrality should be the guiding principle here,” he added.

According to Huttunen, safety always comes first in nuclear energy. However, regulation should focus on essential factors such as safe and reliable facilities and processes. Currently, there is too much focus on following detailed norms and rules. 

“In Finland, preparations for a comprehensive reform of Finnish nuclear energy legislation have just begun. That is not to say that something is fundamentally wrong with the current rules.  Actually, the Nuclear Energy Act has worked quite well and enabled the construction of new nuclear power plants and the world's first final disposal facility for spent fuel,” said Huttunen.

“However, we want more judicial clarity and consistency in legislation. Preparations must also be made for new technologies, such as the arrival of small SMR reactors. At the same time, it is necessary to look at the interaction with other regulatory sectors and with EU and international provisions. Updating our legislation will take about 5-6 years, but now is the time to start,” he said. 

“In the future, it is crucial to find ways for international regulators to cooperate flexibly. Widespread deployment of new solutions might prove very difficult if all countries have their own set of rules and requirements. This is a common challenge we should all take on,” Huttunen added.

Riku Huttunen, Director-General, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 50 431 6518