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Monday's papers: Climate change price tag, local reform slacking, radioactive imports

This week starts off with news of a Finnish Innovation Fund report, municipalities slowing down "sote" preparations and radioactive scrap metal causing trouble.

Nikkelin sulatusuuni
Some of the scrap metal that ends up in Finland is radioactive. Image: Norilsk Nickel

Finland's expense bill for the effects of rapid climate change will be in the hundreds of millions or even billions of euros, according to a recent unpublished report by the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra) and Gaia Consulting. Daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that insect-borne illnesses, heat wave deaths and increased depression are the main threats indicated in the report.

The annual summertime worry over ticks infecting people with Lyme disease is something that is likely going to intensify in coming years, said Sitra climate solutions specialist Outi Haanperä in the paper. More severe heat waves may likely carry the risk of killing as many as three times more elderly and ill people in Finland.

"The 2006 heat wave in California killed 655 people and caused so many hospital visits that the price tag for that one summer was more than 4.3 billion euros," Haanperä illustrated in HS.

The costs of mental health problems will also rise to the hundreds of millions, as extended periods of darkness and snowlessness in winter are likely to cause more depression.

"These costs are already a reality," Haanperä said.

The HS article points out that Finland has warmed by two degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial age, whereas the world in total has gotten about one degree warmer; that means that Finland and other Arctic countries will warm up twice as fast as temperatures continue to climb worldwide.

"We need adaptive strategies and plans for the drastic changes to come," Haanpää said.

Sitra director Mari Pantsar told the paper the best way to minimise ballooning costs is through tax reform, prohibitive government measures and legislation.

Health reform preparations slow down

Government's ongoing push for the health and social service reform called "sote" continues to simmer, despite some decrying the process as rushed and undeveloped. Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that a third of Finnish municipalities have actually geared down their preparations significantly, while another third are stalling in other ways.

The Ministry of Finance discovered the slow-down after a round of Skype meetings with local politicians.

"One third of the municipalities are still going full steam," said director of change management Kari Hakari in IS.

Hakari said that the dwindling municipal interest is tied to government's own tardiness in preparing the reform law. Signs of waning preparations on a local level mentioned in the IS piece include cancellations of steering committee meetings and entire projects being left unfinished.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä nonetheless said on Sunday that there is "no reason" why the "sote" reform should not come about during the incumbent government.

"It's in parliament's hands now," the premier said.

Radioactive waste metal a problem

Scrap metal from foreign countries is causing large fees, disposal problems and radiation risks in Finland, paper Turun Sanomat writes this Monday. The radioactive material is picked up by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), but handling dangerous materials and disposing of them is a tough job.

"Sources of radiation should be under strict control for their whole cycle in the EU. There's a broken link somewhere in the chain," says STUK's radiation monitoring chief Tommi Toivonen.

The dangers posed to those who transport and handle the materials can be serious when dealing with elements such as cesium, cobalt and even traces of uranium, TS writes. One of the more insidious materials is americium, used in smoke detectors and radiography.

"Americium emits both alpha particles and gamma rays and it is difficult to detect with instruments," Toivonen said. "It isn't until the smelting phase that it can be reliably detected, and that's when it becomes more hazardous as it can become airborne."

When a 10- or 100-tonne batch of metal is contaminated, it cannot be used in industry and must be disposed of. Often industrial dumps can secure the loads, but in rare cases disposal has to be planned out.

"Finland is paying because some other country dropped the ball," Toivonen said.

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