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Finland lobbied EU to declare nuclear power sustainable after unpublished cabinet decision supported by Greens

The EU Commission decides this autumn if nuclear power will be classified as sustainable.

Olkiluoto 3
Image: Peter Petrelius / Yle

Finland's government has agreed to lobby the EU to declare nuclear power a sustainable energy source, but kept the decision secret.

If nuclear power gets the so-called 'green label', financing for nuclear projects will be easier to come by and the terms of any loans will be softer than for other energy projects.

As a power source that produces virtually no carbon emissions during operations, nuclear has gained the approval of some experts as a sustainable energy source that can help countries transition to a carbon-free energy system.

The International Energy Agency categorises nuclear as a source of low-carbon electricity, considering each plant's lifetime emissions of including construction, fuel mining and supply transport.

Finland's decision was reached at a meeting of ministers on 9 July, but not announced publicly. Yle's sources say that parliament's Grand Committee, which sets the parameters of Finland's EU policy, has not been informed of the change.

Yle requested the memo from the meeting, which was provided after publishing a report on the decision on Thursday.

Greens divided but relaxed

Finance Minister Annika Saarikko (Cen) said that she did not see a reason to keep Finland's view on nuclear power secret, and that the decision was reached in order to influence the EU decision-making process.

The EU has already granted solar and wind power projects the green 'sustainable' stamp of approval, but postponed decisions on gas and nuclear.

The decision was made in 'a good spirit', according to Yle sources. The Green League has previously left government twice over nuclear policy, but was happy to sign up to this line.

Greens emphasise that there are still different views on nuclear within the party, but it has now adopted a 'technology neutral' stance on fighting climate change, according to Yle's sources.

There are bigger divides within government over forest use policy, with the Greens wanting tighter rules and the Centre keen to allow forest owners to sell more timber.

On Thursday Iltalehti reported that Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) raised the matter of nuclear policy with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Helsinki on Monday.

10.10: Corrected statement that nuclear "produces no carbon emissions".

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