Finland: 15 shareholders withdraw from new reactor project

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Fifteen shareholders − one-quarter of the total number − of the Finnish nuclear consortium Fennovoima announced on November 14 that they are withdrawing from the project to build a nuclear power plant in Pyhäjoki, western Finland. Taking into account earlier withdrawals, around half of all shareholders have withdrawn.[1]

About 45 companies remain as partners to the project, but their involvement is conditional as Fennovoima is still negotiating with Russia's Rosatom.[1]

Rosatom intends to take a 34% share in Fennovoima. (Last year, German utility E.ON sold its 34% stake in the consortium.[1]) Fennovoima is negotiating with Rosatom's export subsidiary Rusatom Overseas with a view to building one 1200 MWe AES-2006 VVER pressurised water reactor. Fennovoima says the companies are aiming to sign a plant supply contract by the end of this year.[2]

Six AES-2006 VVER reactors are under construction in Russia and units are also planned in Turkey and Belarus.[3]

In August, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) warned that Rosatom's AES-2006 reactor design would need upgrades to meet Finnish safety standards.[4]

One complication is that Fennovoima has nowhere to dispose of high-level nuclear waste. Posiva Oy, a joint venture between TVO and Fortum, plans a deep geological repository on Olkiluoto Island but those plans do not include accommodation for spent fuel from Fennovoima's new plant. Posiva, TVO and Fortum have repeatedly said they will not accept Fennovoima as a partner.[5]

Posiva President Reijo Sundell said last year: "We're not trying to be nasty. But the simple fact is that there is not enough room. We can't expand the site under the sea. We can't create another deeper level because then it might not withstand the pressure of an ice age. And we can't build a shallower level because the underground water there is saltier and therefore more corrosive."[6]

Making the Olkiluoto bedrock repository bigger to accommodate waste from Hanhikivi would cost about 200 million euros, whereas building a separate facility would cost far more.[5]

One of the remaining consortium members is mining company Talvivaara, which is heavily in debt.[7,8,9,10] In November 2012, a massive spill from Talvivaara's nickel and zinc mine polluted wide areas of wetlands with thousands of cubic meters of toxic and radioactive waste water.[11] The company has been planning to produce uranium from the Talvivaara mine in addition to nickel and zinc. However that plan may be jeopardised by the company's financial troubles as well as low uranium prices.

Finland currently has four operating nuclear reactors, including two Russian-designed VVER-440 reactors, and a 1600 MWe EPR is under construction on Olkiluoto Island.[3] The EPR is seven years behind schedule and the estimated cost has ballooned from three billion euros to eight billion. In late October, the Areva-Siemens consortium increased its claim against Finnish utility TVO to 2.6 billion euros (US$3.5 billion) in relation to the delay and cost overruns of the Olkiluoto EPR, up from the previous claim of 1.9 billion euros (US$2.6 billion). In 2008, TVO submitted a claim to Areva-Siemens for compensation for "losses and costs incurred due to the delay" in completing the project.[12]

[1] 14 Nov 2013, 'More partners pull out of Fennovoima nuclear project',
[2] WNN, 14 Nov 2013, 'Shareholders committed to Finnish plant',
[3] 3 Sept 2013, 'Hanhikivi contract by year end',
[4] 21 Aug 2013, 'Authorities demand safety upgrade for nuclear plant plan',
[6] 24 Jan 2012, 'Posiva: No room for Fennovoima waste in nuclear cave',
[7] 23 Nov 2013, 'Talvivaara hundreds of millions in debt',
[8] Reuters, 15 Nov 2013, 'Talvivaara seeks court-supervised overhaul as fundraising flounders',
[9] 15 Nov 2013, 'Talvivaara suspending ore production, seeking corporate reorganisation',
[10] 15 Nov 2013, Talvivaara debt restructuring:
[12] WNN, 31 Oct 2013, 'Suppliers raise Olkiluoto 3 damages claim',

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