The protest also represented a first direct action demonstration for Finnish protesters, who, according to local activists, have never blockaded nuclear plants before. The protest turned out to be one of the more substantive protests of nuclear power in Europe in several months – netting some 30 arrests.
The outcry against the new reliance on nuclear power in Finland – which at the beginning of the decade was considering phasing out nuclear power – blocked the road to Olkiluoto at three points, forcing plant workers to take detours through cross country paths. The visitors’ centre of the plant was also shut down.
Olkiluoto, an island in Western Finland on the Gulf of Bothnia, operates two boiling water type reactors with a third experimental German and French design EPR reactor scheduled to come online in the next few years. The new EPR is slated to cost about €2.5 billion, and its scheduled start up date has been pushed back a number of times.
The blockade was arranged by some 40 NGOs, 27 of them international. “Several hundred activists took part from various countries including Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, France, Belarus, and Russia,” reported the Belepan Belarusian news wire from the scene.
Russian environmentalists support the blockade
Russian environmental groups made a strong showing at the Olkiluoto blockade, including Moscow’s Ecodefence, Murmansk’s Nautre and Youth, St. Petersburg’s Ecoperestroika, and Green World of Sosnovy Bor, near St. Petersburg.
The Finnish television network YLE quoted Andrei Ozharovsky, Russian environmentalist and nuclear physicists as saying, “Nuclear energy poses an international threat. If something happens here, we will feel it in Russia, just like you felt the effects of Chernobyl” he said, adding, “I was very disappointed by the recent decision of (the Finnish) parliament” to abandon it nuclear phase out. “It sets a bad example for other countries,” Ozharovsky said.
Finnish parliament votes for nuclear against citizen’s wishes
Finnish Parliament’s June 1st decision served as the direct basis for the blockade, when the parliament opened the possibility of beginning the process of securing permission to build two new nuclear reactors and expand the country’s nuclear waste storage sites.
Greenpeace Finland told Belarusian News that the parliament’s decision runs counter to the sentiment of Finland’s population, and smacks of corruption. Greenpeace cited a poll indicating that only 80 percent of Finns are against a new nuclear build out.
Dissatisfaction with nuclear power among Finns is understandable as the installations being constructed on Olkiluoto are of an experimental and dangerous nature – namely the EPR experimental reactor and what is currently the only geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel.
“We don’t want to be the nuclear industry’s guinea pigs,” was one of the placards held aloft by protestors.
…Police helped block the road
Before the demonstration, the Finnish organisation Women Against Nuclear Energy” officially informed the police of their intentions to stage a protest at the gates of the nuclear power plant. Finnish police announced though the media that they would not prevent the protest, but would not allow blockades of the road to Olkiluoto.
The first demonstrators accompanied by a reporter for Bellona Web turned up at the rotary to Olkiluoto at 6 am and were surprise to find that the road to the nuclear power plant was already blocked off by police vehicles. Apparently the police intended to prevent entry onto the territory of the plant, but, in fact, turned out to be the ones initiating the blocked roads.
Demonstrators nonetheless unfurled their banners across the road to the plant and tried to block off the Turku-Pori highway, which adjoins the road to Olkiluoto. Several times they succeeded in stopping traffic for as long as 15 to 20 minutes, but would then be crowded off the road by police. Three activists who had managed to circumvent the police blockade tied themselves together and laid on the road beyond the T-junction to the plant. They had to be lifted to the road shoulder when a heavy crane was passing. But they took their positions in the road again after it passed and were joined by five more protesters who tied themselves into the human blockade.
Activists on both sides of the police cordon managed to hold the road for several hours. One hundred and fifty unfurled more banners, sat in the road, sang songs and had picnics. The détente between police and activists remained in place for several hours.
…and then applied excessive force
At about 4 pm a number of police vans passed the activists who were laying tied together in the road and a helicopter began to circle overhead. Police began separating these activists, lifting them and carrying them to waiting busses. Those sitting in the road were grabbed by backs of their necks and jaws and were painfully manhandled and escorted from where they had been sitting and shoved on the bus.
In the morning, the police were satisfied that that the demonstration was peaceful, Helsingin Sanomat reported. But by afternoon, police told the paper, protesters were blocking main roads and refusing to obey police orders to move.
”Those who refused to withdraw on their own were taken by bus to the Rauma police station,” Chief Inspector Lars Grönroos from the Satakunta Police Department, told Helsingin Sanomat.
The activists were taken to a police precinct in Raumo and fined €60 for disorderly conduct. Altogether, 30 activists were arrested and fined.
Blockade a success
Near the end of the blockade, one of its Finnish organizers, Tapio Solala of Pori described it to Bellona Web as a success.
“We fulfilled what we conceived – the main road to the nuclear power plant was blocked for a long time,” he said. “I hope that the success of the blockade will enable a fortification of the anti-nuclear movement in Finland, This is a new form of protest for us and we can use it again.”
Many participants in the protest spoke about how the parliamentary vote meant the beginning of a new nuclear build out. But they added that it will be difficult to find investors for these dubious projects should protests continue.
“In the future we intend to undertake a number of actions to pressure possible investors – letters of protest and boycotts of products and services by companies who buy electricity from the nuclear power plant,” activist Senni Luosujärvi told Bellona Web.
As successful as boycotts, pressure on investors and blockades of nuclear power plants can be in the west, they have scant chance of working in Russia. Blocking roads in Russia is a jailable offence, and the state, rather than investors, pays for the building of new reactors.