Letter to Santa Claus from the local correspondent of Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy in Finland
Dear Santa Claus, please bring us our new nuclear power plant. And please bring it soon, for it will save us money and help keep our environment clean.
Last summer we had lots of sunshine all over Scandinavia and the summer lasted longer than usual. We had not seen such a beautiful autumn since a very long time, and we wondered how long it would continue. But finally it ended. By 15th November we already had snow in the south of Finland, and now when I look out my window I think January is already here. We haven't seen this for at least thirty years!
The children are always very happy to see winter arrive with its cold and snow, and so are the electric companies because we buy much more electric energy to heat the house when it's cold. Our electric bill for this November will be about 10% higher than last year's.
But the electric utilities are very unhappy this year. The summer was so warm and dry that the dams, lakes and water reservoirs were not replenished, neither in Norway, nor in Sweden, nor in Finland; and the usual reserves of hydroelectric power are not available. In our three countries, the difference between a very rainy year and a very dry year amounts to the entire year's supply of electricity in Finland.
Dear Santa Claus, Finland and all of Scandinavia is suddenly short of electrical energy. Already last year, people like Timo Rajala of the electric company PVO had warned the public authorities in Finland that, due to the fact that energy requirements increase a bit every year, it would be difficult to cover the country's needs starting in 2004 or 2005. The authorities advised Mr Rajala to keep his thoughts to himself, to say nothing and to put away his scarecrow. And here we are today: because last summer was so dry, the situation which we expected to experience only three or four years from now is already upon us.
That is how the variation in this year's rainfall can cause the electricity market to turn upside down. The low cost of electricity in Finland these last few years was based on our ability to import cheap hydroelectricity from Sweden and Norway, where they had had lots of rain. But weather is capricious, and this year Sweden and Norway won't even be able to cover their own needs.
Therefore this year, instead of being an importer, Finland will be an exporter of electric energy to satisfy the needs of our Scandinavian neighbors to the south and to the west. We are at this moment supplying about 1000 MegaWatts day and night - the equivalent of one large nuclear power plant.
So we are still connected to our neighbors, but the current is flowing in the opposite direction than usual! And the energy which Sweden used to get from the nuclear reactor it closed in 1999 at Barseback, is now supplied by some old and very polluting Finnish coal plants. Isn't that just great for the environment ?
In fact, to meet this winter's demand for energy, the electric companies here in Finland and in our neighboring countries are calling upon all their reserve capacity, including their oldest and most polluting coal-fired boilers, producing millions of tons of CO2. I wonder where all this atmospheric pollution goes? Dear Santa, I hope it will not be troublesome for your sleigh rides this Christmas ?
In fact, with the current market price of electricity up 3 to 5 times over summer prices, even those dirty old coal-fired stations can be made to operate at a profit.
The energy market in our region seems to have lost its stability simply because a few clouds passed over at the wrong time - both too late and too early. I don't dare imagine the destabilizing effect upon the international oil market of some other clouds, political this time, as say, a war in Iraq. It would cause the price of oil to go sky high, and with it the price of natural gas and indirectly the price of coal. What would we do then?
One of the great advantages of the nuclear power station now under construction in Finland is that it will bring long term stability to the price of energy in Scandinavia at a known level, a price that will be affordable and predictable - whether or not the rain falls and whether or not the Americans go to war in Iraq.
Dear Santa Claus, it seems that only nuclear energy can provide that stability. We eagerly await that fifth reactor to save our region from the energy rationing such as that we saw last year in California. We will courageously meet the present challenge to our economy, but at the cost of a few scares and emptying our pockets, but hopefully we will escape the power shortages.
When that fifth nuclear power station comes on stream, we will be free of these cares and instabilities, and will burn less coal that pollutes the atmosphere, but not before. In view of the time it takes to build our new reactor, we shall have to wait patiently. Unfortunately we shall have to wait a little longer than children await the visit of Santa Claus...
Dear Santa, please bring that fifth reactor quickly to our dear Finland, because we really need a clean and non-polluting source of energy .
Please hurry! it's getting late! It's already very cold here! and it would be bothersome to say the least if we did not have enough energy to heat our house this winter and in the coming years, with our cold climate.
Oil and gas already cost us dear, and we are sure that they will not last for the long term. We are especially worried here in Finland because we are heavily dependent as concerns fossile fuels on our big neighbor Russia who has not always been kind to us in the past.
Dear Santa Claus, I thank you in advance for all the gifts you will bring us this Christmas, for your patience in reading this long letter and, especially for all that you are doing to improve our life.