There is much debate about nuclear plants and their safety – but much less about the safety of coal-fired plants. Germany has been building new coal-fired plants and the coal lobby is supremely active in a small number coal producing and user nations in the EU, the USA, India, China and Australia, inter alia.
Finland has a cold climate and that requires heating for homes, offices and commercial properties for 6 months, at least, each year…
…and we have many important naturally occurring raw materials – wood, metals, etc… – that require energy-intensive industrial transformation for exported products. Cost efficiency and reliable base energy sources are required by their users here.
The Germans and the French have been dominating the energy market planning for too long, because the Germans want cheap coal as a source of power because they want to be the manufacturing kings of Europe, and the French want to stop Spanish cheaper renewables transmission lines from entering France across their mountains… it is all about selfishness and beggar thy neighbour, in this case the EU, for these two!
The numbers relating to safety presented here cannot be doubted because it is reliably estimated (see below) that at least 1 to 2 million people die each year from air pollution caused by coal-fired power plants, while less than 100 have been known to have died from direct exposure to a nuclear plant accident. Newer estimates are saying that possibly several thousand may have died from such exposures, but these studies are still to be completed.
In any event the numbers show that nuclear power is a safer and cleaner source of power.
Finland has 5 operating nuclear plants, all located on the shores of the Baltic Sea that provide over 30% of the country’s electricity generation. The five plants are as follows with capacity in MW and date of start of operations :
- Olkiluoto 1 – 890MW (1979)
- Olkiluoto 2 – 890MW (1982)
- Olkiluoto 3 – 1,600MW (2013)
- Loviisa 1 – 500MW (1980)
- Loviisa 2 – 500MW (1977)
Olkiluoto 3 is the newest and most powerful nuclear reactor in Finland that started commercial operations in April this year – all of the other above plants have operated safely since their start.
Nuclear power is a reliable and low-carbon source of electricity and plays an important role in Finland’s energy mix to to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Finland is storing its waste nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository that will isolate the waste from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. The repository will be located in Eurajoki, Finland, in a bedrock formation that is over 1 billion years old. The waste will be placed in canisters and then buried in the bedrock. The canisters will be surrounded by a barrier system that will prevent the release of radioactive material into the environment. This repository will be monitored for thousands of years to ensure that the waste is safely contained.
It is also important to look at the global nuclear sector to examine the safety record. As of 2023, there have been about 440 nuclear power plants built in the world, with about 100 accidents and 50 closures.
Accidents at nuclear power plants are rare, but they can have devastating consequences. The most serious nuclear accidents in history were Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011.
The ten largest nuclear plant accidents, in order of severity, are:
- Chernobyl disaster (Ukraine, 1986)
- Kyshtym disaster (Russia, 1957)
- Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (Japan, 2011)
- Three Mile Island accident (United States, 1979)
- Windscale fire (United Kingdom, 1957)
- SL-1 accident (United States, 1961)
- Tokaimura nuclear criticality accident (Japan, 1999)
- Lucens reactor accident (Switzerland, 1969)
- Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux nuclear power plant accident (France, 1980)
- Mayak nuclear disaster (Russia, 1957)
The total number of people who have died directly from nuclear plant accidents is 78.
This includes 31 people who died in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, 28 emergency plant personnel who died from acute radiation exposure following the accident, and 19 additional deaths that have been attributed to radiation exposure.
To date, no deaths or serious accidents have been recorded in Germany, a country that closed all 17 nuclear power plants as of April 15, 2023.
The estimated annual global death rates from smoke from coal-fired power plants are between 1.2 million and 2.2 million.
The above estimates are based on two studies that have looked at the relationship between air pollution from coal-fired power plants and health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases.
- One study, published in the journal Nature Energy in 2021, estimated that air pollution from coal-fired power plants caused 1.8 million deaths worldwide in 2018. This study used a new method for estimating the health impacts of air pollution, which took into account the fact that people are exposed to different levels of air pollution depending on where they live.
- Another study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2019, estimated that air pollution from coal-fired power plants caused 1.2 million deaths worldwide in 2015. This study used a different method for estimating the health impacts of air pollution, but the results are similar to the study published in Nature Energy.
Photo: TVO website