Fortum’s heat plant in Espoo on 17 December 2022. The Finnish majority state-owned energy company has embarked on collaboration with a number of companies, including stainless steel maker Outokumpu, on small modular reactors. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)


FORTUM and Outokumpu have entered into a partnership to explore the possibilities of building a small modular reactor in Finland.

The Finnish duo will look into a number of collaborative approaches along with the economic, regulatory and technological feasibility of small modular reactors with a view to finding answers within a couple of years, Heikki Malinen, the CEO of Outokumpu, stated to YLE on Thursday, 23 March.

“We’re looking for emission-free electricity that helps us to reach our climate goals,” he said.

Outokumpu has adopted the near-term target of reducing its direct and indirect emissions, as well as emissions across its value chain, from the levels of 2016 by 42 per cent per tonne of stainless steel by 2030. The target represents a 30-per-cent reduction from the levels of 2020.

One potential location for the small modular reactor is close to the steel producer’s mill in Tornio, Western Lapland. “Optimally the plant is close to the production facility where the electricity is used,” told Malinen.

Small nuclear reactors and other carbon-free energy solutions are important for two reasons to Outokumpu: they not only reduce its carbon emissions but also guarantee it has access to competitively priced electricity.

“We’re the largest electricity buyer in Finland. Electricity is our most important production input together with metal,” noted Malinen.

Outokumpu consumes about four terawatts of energy a year, about as much as the city of Helsinki, according to YLE. Small modular reactors typically have a capacity of 300–500 megawatts, Matti Kattainen, the head of nuclear future at Fortum, revealed to the Finnish public broadcasting company.

While Finland has witnessed a rapid increase in wind power capacity, Malinen reminded that wind power alone is unlikely to satisfy the needs of industries that require electricity at all hours of the day and all times of the year given its reliance on weather conditions.

The global steel industry, which generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all but two countries in the world, is scrambling to respond to growing demand for low-emission steel as, for example, automotive and household appliance manufacturers are looking for ways to cut emissions across their supply chain and as emission rights become more expensive, bridging the gap between low-carbon and fossil steel.

Outokumpu has identified three primary measures for reducing its emissions, the public broadcasting company wrote. It has laid out plans to produce coke from low-carbon biomass instead of imported coal, increase the use of recycled metal and transition toward greener energy sources.

“That’s why we’re trying to make sure that the electricity we use generates as little emissions as possible, preferably none,” told Malinen.

Kattainen of Fortum reminded YLE that industry has a key role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. “We want to respond to the demand for clean energy in the Nordics. Collaborative projects with clients are the best way to accomplish this,” he viewed.

Fortum has explored the potential of small modular reactors since last autumn, earlier putting pen to paper on partnerships with the likes of Helen, France’s EDF and Sweden’s Känfull Next. Last week the majority state-owned energy company announced the start of co-operation with Rolls-Royce, a British company that has developed a 470-megawatt small modular reactors.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT