Nuclear power is more popular than ever in Finland. According to the “Opinions on Nuclear Power” survey carried out by Finnish Energy and the Kantar TNS survey company, slightly less than half (49%) of the people in Finland have a fully or at least mainly positive view on nuclear power.
“Nuclear power and other emission-free forms of energy are popular in Finland. Over the past 15 years, awareness of global warming and the necessity of mitigating it has risen to a very high level,” says Kati Takala, energy production specialist at Finnish Energy.
Twenty years ago, only one person in three felt this way about nuclear power. In the results of the annual survey, the popularity of nuclear power has grown from year to year. At the same time, the group of those who oppose nuclear power has become smaller. In the 2021 survey, only one respondent in six had a fully or mainly negative view on nuclear power.
“The acceptability of nuclear power has become established. The change is most apparent in the young age groups,” says Joona Turtiainen, director of advocacy at Finnish Energy.
Young people have the most positive views on nuclear power
Kati Takala is happy about young people’s increasingly positive attitude toward nuclear power.
“It is a cliché, but it is for the young that we are building a better tomorrow,” she says.
In the survey by Finnish Energy and Kantar, 51% of the respondents approved nuclear power as a means to combat climate change. In the age group of those under 25, even more people, 59%, thought this way. In the group of young adults, aged 25–34, 57% shared this view.
“Young people are very aware of climate issues. They find out about things and trust science in their opinions,” Takala says.
Gender and status affect attitudes toward nuclear power in Finland
Overall, the positive attitude toward nuclear power among people in Finland extends across different groups of people both horizontally and vertically. Still, there are differences. For example, women have clearly more reservations about nuclear power than men. Only 31% of women have a positive view on nuclear power, while 66% of men who responded to the survey are in favor of nuclear power.
“The difference is interesting, as both men and women have access to the same facts. It seems that there are differences in the values and emotions behind the attitudes,” Turtiainen says.
“The people in Finland trust science, officials and the media.”
Socioeconomic status also has a small effect on attitudes toward nuclear power. Among workers, 48% of respondents had a positive view on nuclear power, whereas for people in a managerial position the corresponding figure was 56%.
“In summary, the higher education people have, the more positive their attitude toward nuclear power is likely to be,” Takala says.
Nuclear power is seen as a safe form of energy
The established popularity of nuclear power reflects the fact that people in Finland see nuclear power as an important emission-free form of energy. The popularity also indicates that nuclear power is considered safe.
“Nuclear power is viewed favorably especially by young people whose age group did not grow up in the world that followed the Chernobyl accident. They are sufficiently aware to understand that the risks of nuclear power are very small, and as the climate becomes warmer, they know how to weigh its significance as an emission-free form of production,” Turtiainen says.
In the long term, the popularity of nuclear power momentarily decreased after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and the Fukushima accident caused by a tsunami in 2011. In both cases, the confidence of the people in Finland in this form of energy was restored within three years.
“The people in Finland trust science, officials and the media. When matters are communicated openly and good reasons are given, people are able to recognize isolated cases and have a pragmatic approach,” Turtiainen says.
Article updated 11.10.2021 (the year of Fukushima accident).
Does low price mean more than environmental values?
The survey by Finnish Energy and Kantar TNS provides a positive picture of the attitude to nuclear power, but there is also some discord heard from the survey front. A couple of years ago, people in Finland found decreasing emissions and mitigating climate change as the most important things in energy policy. However, according to Finnish Energy’s latest survey of attitudes toward energy, more and more people see low energy price as the most important thing.
“The past few years have been difficult for many. When one’s own financial situation is uncertain, it is natural that their thoughts move from global questions to matters closer to their everyday life,” says Joona Turtiainen, director of advocacy at Finnish Energy.
In 2018, the IPCC published its report on the effects of global warming. It received well-deserved attention and put environmental values strongly back on the agenda in energy questions as well. At the end of the summer of 2021, IPCC published the second part of its report, which demands even more ambitious targets to mitigate climate change. This may once again get survey respondents focus more on the environment rather than the price of energy.
“Price awareness can also be seen in a positive light. Environmental values and zero emissions have already become such a fixed part of energy production that many people may think that the current level is enough, and therefore think more about the price,” Turtiainen says.
Opinions on nuclear power in 2021
- The Opinions on Nuclear Power survey by Finnish Energy and Kantar was responded by 1,002 people in Finland in the spring of 2021.
- Of all respondents, 49% had a fully or at least mainly positive view on nuclear power, while fully or partly negative views were held by 16%.
- Young people are the strongest supporters of nuclear power. In the age group of 18–24, 51% of the respondents have a fully or at least mainly positive view on nuclear power.
- 66% of men feel positively about nuclear power, and 31% of women. Correspondingly, 8% of men and 22% of women view nuclear power fully or partly negatively.