10.12.21 A climate protector and a fan of nuclear power Author: Uniper SE • Reading time: 4 min.

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Summary

“Green” does not automatically mean the same as “anti-nuclear.” This is demonstrated by the Finnish Green Party politician Tea Törmänen, who is fighting to protect the climate by using new modular nuclear reactors. 

Tea Törmänen on social media: @TeaTrmn (Twitter)

When it comes down to doing the right thing, no journey is too long for Tea Törmänen. In her case, this journey took her from Karelia in Finland to the waters off Canada and the United States, where she studied creatures that may be among the most misunderstood in the world – killer whales. This is just one of many examples showing how Tea does not let anything deflect her from her commitment to the environment. 

To leave a better world to future generations has always been Tea’s driving force, and it was not long before she also became involved in politics. Thanks to her mother, who was active in the National Coalition Party, Tea grew up distributing leaflets and knocking on voters’ doors. As an adult, however, she sensed that the Coalition Party was not the ideal political party, and so she joined the Liberal Party. 

As she continued her political journey in the Liberal Party, her party colleagues were soon convinced that she should become its leader, because of her campaigning for a sustainable future. After the party’s leader resigned in 2019, Tea was asked to take over the position. The great responsibility associated with that post made her pause for thought. After careful consideration, she decided that her talents would be best used somewhere else – in the Green Party. After joining that party, she moved back to her native Karelia and set up a local group of the party’s sub-organization “Greens for Science and Technology,” of which she is now the chair. 

Tea Törmänen, Member of the Green Party, Finland

When Tea Törmänen thinks that something is right, she is resolute about it – but she is also open to new ideas at the same time. “Since my childhood I have constantly wanted to change something, and I have always been an environmentalist,” she says in a conversation about the environment and nuclear power. “Whenever I see that something needs to be changed, I will act. I simply have no alternative – not least now that my two daughters have been born. I owe it to them, at the very least, to fight for their future.” 

Pro-nuclear does not mean the same as anti-environment

Finnish politics has long been admired internationally for its ability, where necessary, to prioritize the ends over the means, without getting bogged down in ideological debate or protracted decision-making processes. The decision about the final disposal site for nuclear waste is a good example of this. Overall, it seems that what matters most in Finland is the will and determination to stand up for a better society, regardless of party allegiance. 

For instance, young Finns want fossil-free solutions for future energy production. For 59 percent of young people aged under 25, nuclear power is seen as one of the energy sources that are needed to combat climate change. Also, the trend in Finnish society is unambiguous: acceptance of nuclear power as a means of combating climate change has gone up by 25 percent since 2012. 

The development of small modular nuclear reactors, known as SMRs, comes into play here. For Tea, investment in this new nuclear technology can make a contribution toward providing a safe, reliable source of energy and, at the same time, making possible a future without fossil fuels. “By investing in SMRs, we can tackle the problems that lead to delays and complications with traditional nuclear power stations,” she explains. “But even more importantly, the flexibility and scalability of SMRs mean we can use a new, fossil-free technology on a large scale to cover future energy needs even more effectively, while at the same time always keeping a focus on the environmental aspect.” 

Nuclear power for COP26

Tea Törmänen, Member of the Green Party, Finland

When we talk to Tea, there is only a week to go until COP26 in Glasgow – the first of these meetings in which she herself will be taking part. “There are many things that I would like to see during COP26,” she says. “One of them is the inclusion of nuclear power in the Green Zone. This is because climate change is happening now, and we do not have the time to rule out even one single sustainable option.” 

Tea does not merely want to ensure that nuclear power is categorized as one of the sustainable energy options. She is also of the opinion that there need to be more incentives for countries to fulfil their climate pledges, so that something can really be achieved. This includes more commitments to stop investment in fossil fuels and to increase investment in clean technologies. In her opinion, one option is the introduction of a global pricing mechanism for carbon emissions. “We have the research, and we have the pledges from governments,” she says. “What we need now is more initiatives for a genuine transformation. National promises alone will not work, and there are also no consequences if countries miss their own targets. We need financial incentives to reduce emissions, in which everybody is involved.” 

The dream of Finland’s first SMR

Whether at the national or international level, Tea’s commitment to a sustainable future extends beyond frontiers. Here is what she says when asked about her ideal future energy system: “Alongside the use of fossil-free, low-emission technologies, the ideal energy system would be as space-efficient as possible and occupy as little space as possible. It would be a mix of wind, solar, and nuclear power, all used in those places where they do the least harm to the environment.” 

The use of SMRs would form a stable foundation for the electricity system and complement renewable energy sources. What is more, Finland is no longer far from turning this idea into reality. There are already plans to build nuclear power plants to supply Finnish cities – including Helsinki – with clean, fossil-free district heating. This would be the first SMR in Europe and would make Finland a pioneer in the use of this technology. If you ask Tea, she believes it is certainly possible for Finland to put an SMR into operation before the end of the 2020s. 

If this does happen at some point, Tea may well have played a major part in it, as she and her party colleagues have worked with determination to create a safe, sustainable, and environment-friendly electricity system – for both present and future generations. 

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