A week ago, Greenpeace published leaked internal documents from the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear construction site that proved basic construction standards had been violated. A week later, a Finnish TV news programme used more leaked documents and interviews with insiders to show that workers had been coerced not to discuss safety violations with outsiders - not even to inspectors. It took a week for the Finnish nuclear watchdog to clear the companies of the allegations and establish that even if the alleged violations had taken place they would not have compromised safety. Impressive! How did they do it?
They called the construction companies themselves and asked.
Just imagine the situation in another context - the police receive a call about a shoplifter. Monitoring tapes clearly show stuff was stolen and they are able to identify the bad guy. They then give the suspect a call, he explains that he was watching TV and even if had taken something it wouldn't have been anything expensive. The police reports that a crime did not happen and even if it had happened it would not have caused notable economic damage. Why bother with fingerprints or leaked technical documents when we have cellphones and email?
Of course the problem, as the quick of brain may have figured out by now, is that a suspect might not voluntarily report the crimes he has committed even if politely asked to. For this to happen it is important to have cordial and confidential relations between the authorities and the companies they are keeping a watch over. Evidence of such cordiality was published yesterday, when a letter from the head of the Finnish nuclear watchdog, Jukka Laaksonen to the CEO of the French nuclear giant Areva was leaked to Finnish media. The letter from Laaksonen assures that "we will do our best to avoid unnecessary delays in Olkiluoto" and that he has "no doubts about the acceptability of the final product."
In his letter, Laaksonen goes on to proclaim that:
"You can be assured, that unfriendly writings in papers have had no effect on me and I will not let them have any impact on the good co-operation we have with the experts and managers of your organization.
"I fully recognize Areva's role as the company that is re-establishing the nuclear construction capacity of Western Europe and the US and I don't believe any company could have done it better in the current circumstances. I also appreciate your personal dedication and the fact that you have sent competent people to run the project."
And in an interview to MTV3 TV news yesterday:
"Areva and the companies behind it are still the world's strongest nuclear supplier. They still have the world's best and safest product. We have no reason to doubt that or doubt their sincerity."
The last statement is an exceptional display of trust - a sign of true friendship - as it was made two days after clear evidence of secrecy at Olkiluoto was published. Although other nuclear suppliers might not be too happy to hear the official regulator’s views on their performance respective to Areva, they can be assured that if they ever were to visit Finland during their nuclear adventures, they would also quickly make good friends with our lovable little nuclear watchdog.
(This a guest post by Lauri Myllyvirta, nuclear campaigner based in Finland for Greenpeace Nordic. You can find out more about Olkiluoto 3 at olkiluoto.info.)