The nuclear mill of the North

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Main building, auditorium A1, address: Kalevantie 4

Doctoral defence of Lic.Soc.Sc. Pertti Vehkalahti

The nuclear mill of the North: Public debate on Fennovoima nuclear power plant 2007–2013

The field of science of the dissertation is Journalism.

The opponent is docent Tuomas Ylä-Anttila (University of Helsinki). Professor Janne Seppänen acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

Public debate on Fennovoima nuclear power plant 2007–2013

The dissertation examines the public debate on the Fennovoima nuclear power plant. The study consists of three refereed articles and an introduction. The data consists of journalistic stories and opinion articles published in Helsingin Sanomat, Kaleva and Raahen Seutu during years 2007–2013.

A variety of events took place during the period 2007-2013, such as the Government’s Decision-in-Principle, the related parliamentary vote and the choice of a location for the plant. There were also unexpected turns, such as the withdrawal of one of the founding members, E.On, from the project in the aftermath of Fukushima. The Russian corporation Rosatom’s entry into the project also attracted attention.

The first article discusses the quantitative role of various actors, topics and opinions concerning nuclear power during the debate. Fennovoima and other companies got a lot of publicity in the newspapers. They are not speaking only in nuclear-positive stories, but appear also as neutral sources. Also representatives of the state and the municipalities were cited often. Anti-nuclear NGO:s got publicity in the local and regional newspapers, but their views were rarely represented in the national newspaper. The so-called energy elite, apart from the state representatives, did not appear in the Fennovoima debate. The papers approached the topic in different ways. Helsingin Sanomat covered Fennovoima less than Kaleva and Raahen Seutu and typically published short financial news about it. The local newspapers published three times more stories than Helsingin Sanomat. They also concentrated more on personal interviews and reportages.

The second article deals with the use of climate change arguments in the Fennovoima debate. Three different frames are detected: political decision-making, technical management and economic activity. At a closer look, it can be seen that these frames have in common a quest for ”solving” the issue of climate change. As such, the speech on climate change largely repeat the claims of climate science.

The third article focuses on the use of arguments concerning Russia in the Fennovoima debate. For years, Russian nuclear energy was mainly discussed in terms of energy dependence and obsolete nuclear technology. When the Russian corporation Rosatom became a shareholder and supplier of the plant, part of the discussion turned to highlighting the Russians’ experience in the field. Part of the discussion came to weigh up the cultural and political differences between Russia and Finland in a negative tone. The Finnish authorities’ supervision was seen as a positive point of reference throughout the material.

The introductory volume of the study examines the results of the research through the theory of public sphere and the theory of policy networks. Energy issues play a major role in national decision-making and the construction of a nuclear power plant is linked to almost all areas of society. For example, it affects the economics, employment, energy, regional decision-making, the environment and security. Therefore it is important to know how the construction of a nuclear power plant and related decisions are justified in public.

The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2315, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica UniversitatisTamperensis; 1819, Tampere University Press 2017.

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