A survey of the general public related to the operational disruption at the Olkiluoto 2 nuclear power plant showed that respondents in the immediate vicinity of the power plant were not satisfied with the incident communications. Half of them considered the communications to have been poor or very poor, and just under half stated that they did not feel they had received sufficient information. The survey was conducted by the Finnish National Rescue Association with the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

The operational disruption that occurred at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant on 10 December 2020 did not pose a danger for people or for the environment, and this information was published about one hour after the incident.

Although half of the respondents in the immediate vicinity were dissatisfied with the communications concerning the incident, just over one third of all respondents considered the communications poor, while about one third considered the communications successful.

“It was a rare event, and of course whenever there is a disruption at a nuclear power plant, the authorities have to step up their readiness, and it raises concern or fear in many people. The incident attracted considerable attention, as we can see from the fact that more than 3,500 people responded to the survey,” says Tuula Kekki, Research Manager at the Finnish National Rescue Association.

Responses were received from across Finland. One in five respondents were local residents, the rest being from all around the country. The survey was conducted online, thus probably excluding population groups who do not use the Internet or social media. The survey material cannot thus be regarded as a balanced sample of the entire population experiencing the disruption; it simply depicts the reaction of about 3,500 random respondents.

No cause for an emergency announcement – media played significant role in conveying information

The operational disruption at Olkiluoto was exceptional, but because there was no danger to the general public, there was no cause for making an emergency announcement. Nevertheless, local residents had a great need for information, and this heightened the role and importance of the media in conveying information.

“It was probably a challenging scenario as far as communications goes, because there was no cause for an emergency announcement but people around Finland and particularly in the proximity of the site felt that they should have been informed considerably more quickly and in more detail, for instance by text message,” says Heikki Laurikainen, Researcher at the Finnish National Rescue Association.

Eventually there was abundant news coverage of the incident, and more than half of the respondents in the survey first learned of the incident through the Finnish Broadcasting Company or through the online services of the Ilta-Sanomat, Länsi-Suomi or Satakunnan Kansa newspapers or through other online sources. Up to 60% of the respondents reported that news channels online were their principal sources of information. However, some respondents felt that they should have received information by some other means than by actively following the news themselves.

Local residents desired additional information on many things: causes, consequences, action taken

About half of all respondents considered that they had been sufficiently informed about what happened. Among local residents, however, the clear majority felt that they had not been sufficiently informed.

“These people would have wanted to have more information on the causes and consequences of the disruption, on safety risks and measures that residents should take in case of a radiation incident, and on what the authorities were doing to control the situation,” says Kekki, explaining the needs of local residents.

The survey concerning the operational disruption at the Olkiluoto 2 nuclear power plant was conducted among the general public online between 18 December 2020 and 4 January 2021. The total number of respondents was 3,552. The survey focused on how members of the public received information, what their information needs and concerns were, how well they trusted the incident communications, the authorities and the safety of nuclear power plants, and how satisfied they were with how information on the incident had been communicated and covered in the news media.

Figure 2. Information channels considered the most important regarding the incident.
Figure 3. Respondents’ experience of whether they received sufficient information on the incident.