Concerns over a conflict between major powers promoted Finland’s active role in the development of non-proliferation
A recent research paper by Petri Paju, Adjunct Professor at the University of Turku, explores the methods of and motives for Finns implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty from the 1960s onwards. Finland was the first country to sign a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Documentary sources indicate that Finnish experts also participated in drafting the agreement with the IAEA. This achievement laid the foundation for the pioneering image of Finnish nuclear safety experts. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Petri Paju’s research report titled Finland and nuclear non-proliferation – Fifty years of implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ("Ydinsulku ja Suomi – 50 vuotta ydinsulkusopimuksen kansallista toimeenpanoa") describes Finland’s long-term commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and its implementation. Finland prepared for the use of nuclear energy in the 1960s under challenging foreign policy conditions. The prototype TRIGA reactor, acquired in 1962, helped accumulate Finnish competence in the nuclear energy sector, providing the country with the skills and motivation to work with the IAEA and plan comprehensive, international safeguards for nuclear materials required by the NPT. Construction on Finland’s first commercial nuclear reactor, Loviisa 1, began in 1971. The reactor featured a unique combination of technology from both the Eastern and Western Blocs of the Cold War era. It would have been impossible to acquire nuclear technology without commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Based on documentary sources, Paju’s research points to Finland’s role as an unofficial partner of the IAEA in the negotiations conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The core content of the comprehensive safeguards agreement was formulated in the negotiations between the IAEA and Finland. In 1972, Finland became the first country in which a comprehensive safeguards agreement took effect. Finnish analysts considered this to be a “prize” for the country’s active role in drafting the agreement.
Paju believes that Finland’s active involvement in non-proliferation matters during the Cold War also served the country’s policy of neutrality between the East and the West.
“In Finland, the IAEA got an active collaborator and partner for the development of nuclear non-proliferation safeguards. The benefits were mutual, since the IAEA’s status was still weak in the 1960s. Located between the East and the West, Finland had to seek solutions acceptable to the United States and the Soviet Union. That is why Finland was happy to support international, rules-based safeguards,” Paju explains.
Finnish nuclear safety professionals were offered international duties after the collapse of the Soviet Union
Worldwide, the 1970s and 1980s were a period of rapid development in nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. “Nuclear topics” broke into the mainstream of public debate, and the concerns were real. The number of nuclear weapons continued to increase globally, and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster cast a long shadow over the use of nuclear energy.
In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War and the discovery of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme led to significant changes in the IAEA safeguards. Finnish professionals were also sent as IAEA experts to, for example, Iraq and South Africa to dismantle those countries’ nuclear weapons programmes in the early 1990s.
Thanks to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority having studied and developed technological solutions for safeguards since the early 1980s, Finland had accumulated a great deal of competence in non-proliferation safeguards. In addition, Finland supported the IAEA over the long term by offering training to international inspectors.
“Finland’s commitment to the geological disposal of nuclear waste in 1982 was one of the key contributors to the development of safeguards for nuclear materials. This pushed industry and the authorities to engage in long-term cooperation to ensure that a permanent and safe solution could be found to the question of nuclear waste. This question remains unresolved in many countries, even though nuclear waste continues to be generated daily,” says Elina Martikka, Head of International Cooperation at STUK.
The world’s first radioactive waste repository, ONKALO®, is expected to go online in Olkiluoto in the 2020s (c. 2025).
Finland’s achievements in non-proliferation policy are the results of consistent long-term work. The development of the nuclear industry in Finland has been greatly assisted by extensive national cooperation and early commitment to being a non-nuclear-weapon state and finding solutions to nuclear waste questions. The nuclear non-proliferation regime has enabled Finland to safely invest in developing technological expertise,” says Paju.
Nuclear non-proliferation regime
- Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), concluded in 1970, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom) agreed not to provide non-nuclear-weapon states with nuclear weapons or explosives or to assist them in obtaining them.
- Under the NPT, a signatory state signs an agreement with the IAEA authorizing it to exercise safeguards for the control of nuclear materials. Examples of such agreements include:
- The Small Quantities Protocol (SQP), applied by states with limited quantities of nuclear material for, for example, research purposes
- The Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA), and
- The Additional Protocol, which provides the IAEA with more specific details about operations related to the use of nuclear material. In Finland and the other EU Member States, the additional protocol entered into force in 2004.
- The purpose of the IAEA’s regulatory supervision is to ensure that nuclear material is only used for peaceful purposes.
- In Finland, STUK serves as the national authority indicated in the NPT and is responsible for submitting regulatory information to the IAEA and for participating in IAEA inspections.
- Finland and Nuclear Non-Proliferation - Fifty years of implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (PDF, julkari.fi)
- Ydinsulku ja Suomi – 50 vuotta ydinsulkusopimuksen kansallista toimeenpanoa (PDF, julkari.fi)
Petri Paju, Adjunct Professor, University of Turku, tel. +358 40 8398613
Elina Martikka, Head of International Cooperation, Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, tel. +358 9 75988373
Media Services, tel. +358 10 850 4761