A working group that has examined the need to reform the nuclear energy legislation considers it necessary to launch a comprehensive legislative reform because of the ambiguity of the current legislation, changes in the operating environment of nuclear facilities and the expected developments. The working group submitted its final report to Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä on 27 August 2020.
Last October, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment appointed a working group to examine the need to amend the Nuclear Energy Act. It was tasked with identifying the current state and development outlook of nuclear energy production, the life cycle of nuclear facilities and the related fuel cycle as well as the needs to develop the legislation on the final disposal of spent fuel.
According to the working group, legislation on nuclear energy has adapted to the general legislative development and continues to fulfil the objectives of ensuring security, safeguarding the overall interests of society, and meeting Finland’s obligations under international law. In addition to the ambiguity of the legislation and changes in the operating environment, the comprehensive reform is also supported by the fact that reducing emissions and combating climate change have become key targets in energy and climate policy.
According to the working group, the key principles of the comprehensive legislative reform would be:
1. Finland will continue to ensure compliance with international agreements, commitments and best practices related to the use of nuclear energy.
2. A permit system covering the life cycle of a nuclear facility (government resolution that can be adopted or rejected by Parliament, construction permit, operating licence and licence for decommissioning of a nuclear facility) should be continued, respecting democratic decision-making in a transparent and effective manner.
However, there is room for improvement in the permit system. At the initial stage of the process, matters should be dealt with at a general level and detailed processing should take place at a later stage of the process. It should be easier to anticipate the acceptability of the solutions, for example by means of prior approvals, and overlapping processes should be reduced. The licence for decommissioning of a nuclear facility should be reformed.
3. Requirements and expectations for the safety and technology of a nuclear facility as well as for the relevant actors and authorities must be clearly specified at different stages of the life cycle of the nuclear facility and they must be proportionate to the risks arising from the operations to people, the environment and society.
4. The concepts used must be clear and understandable.
The working group’s guidelines on the development of the licence system would also promote the implementation of modular and serial-produced nuclear facility (Small Modular Reactor, SMR) projects.