Financial thinking guides decision making on nuclear power too
‘Nuclear power says a lot more about us that we could ever say about nuclear power’, says Maarit Laihonen, who has researched Finnish decision making on nuclear power for eight years. In the defence of her doctoral dissertation at the Aalto University School of Business on Friday 16 December 2016, Ms Laihonen shows that the decades old, familiar traditions of the welfare state are still found in the bases for decision making on nuclear power.
Nuclear power was previously considered mainly a form of energy production which involved ethical questions, particularly because of nuclear waste. However, a closer examination of Finnish decision marking on nuclear power exposes a deeply rooted politicism in this sector of industry and at the same time an avoidance of its political character. Officially, decision making on nuclear power is presented as being participatory and all viewpoints and experience are taken into consideration.
However, the latest decisions on nuclear power demonstrate the despicably close alliance between nuclear power and politics: decision makers defend catastrophic projects even in desperate situations. Ms Laihonen’s dissertation shows how Finland’s economic and industrial crisis, Russian military activity and the financial and technical difficulties of Olkiluoto 3 and Fennovoima’s plans for nuclear power, have not undermined the preferred way of presenting these decisions in public.
‘In the 1960s, nuclear power plants were built with the strong conviction that well-being would be disseminated to everyone through industry. Now instead there is a belief in salvation achieved through economic growth, the attempt to achieve independence in power generation as well as the need to respond rapidly to the challenges of climate change’, states Ms Laihonen.
Criticism of the decisions came from many directions ranging from the Ministries to the safety authorities and economics experts. Nuclear power related policies thus have an impact on people that is much broader than on decision makers, and explains the ways in which major industrial policy is formulated.
‘There are high hopes for rational decision making, but the rationality of current policy often seems to be reduced to a blind belief in economics; or rather economic hopes. However, these hopes have a concrete impact which will only be seen in these gigantic projects which will last for years or even decades’, says Ms Laihonen.