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Finland's Cabinet rejects one nuclear power project, approves another

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#792
02/10/2014
Article

Nuclear Monitor #792, 2 Oct 2014, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitors

Author: Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

NM792.4420 Finland's Cabinet has rejected an application from utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) to extend a permit for a new nuclear reactor in the west of the country, finance minister Jan Vapaavuori said on September 25. TVO had requested a five-year extension to the Olkiluoto 4 reactor project. TVO has until 1 July 2015 to submit a construction plan for Olkiluoto 4 to the government, but is unlikely to meet the deadline.1

TVO received preliminary approval to proceed with the project in 2010, but had to submit a revised application to the government because of changes in the ownership of TVO and because of changes to the design of the planned reactor.2

The Olkiluoto 4 license extension was voted down by the National Coalition Party and two minority partners while the Social Democratic Party split with around half of its ministers voting in favour.

Delays with Olkiluoto 4 project are connected to the lengthy delays associated with the Olkiluoto 3 EPR project. Olkiluoto 3, built by an Areva-Siemens consortium and set to be the country's fifth reactor, is nine years behind schedule and €5.5 billion (US$7.0b) over-budget.

Vapaavuori said: "Owing to uncertainties with the Olkiluoto-3 project it is not possible to reliably evaluate if TVO would be able to proceed with the project all the way through the investment and submission of the construction licence even under a new deadline."2

While rejecting the licence extension application from TVO, Finland's Cabinet has accepted changes to the application for a new nuclear power plant at Pyhäjoki in North Ostrobothnia. The application for a 1,200 MW reactor was submitted by Finnish-Russian consortium Fennovoima.3,4

Government's ministers voted 10 to seven in favour of the project and the Green League said it would as a result resign from the ruling coalition, which has six months left in the office before a general election in April. The departure of the Green League's 10 MPs will leave the governing coalition with a slim majority of 102 MPs against the opposition's 98.3,4

One of the Green League's three stipulations for joining the coalition government had been that no new nuclear power permits would be granted during its four-year legislative term.5 In 2002, the Green League left the government when the government approved the Olkiluoto 3 reactor.6

Cabinet's approval is conditional on Fennovoima boosting Finnish ownership to at least 60%. Currently, Finnish owners have committed to a stake of 52%, while Russia's Rosatom has a stake of 34%. It is not certain that Fennovoima will be able to attract sufficient Finnish investors; many potential investors have pulled out of the project in recent years. Those problems (among others) led Fennovoima to replace its CEO and the head of its Finnish owner (Voimaosakeyhtiö SF) in early September.7,8

The upcoming election, and disagreements within the Social Democratic Party over the proposed reactor, could derail Fennovoima's plans.

Fennovoima received preliminary approval to proceed with the project in 2010, but had to submit a revised application to the government because of changes in the ownership of Fennovoima and because the consortium now favours a different design – a Russian 1,200 megawatt AES-2006 pressurised water reactor.9

One point of controversy concerns collaboration with Russian state-owned Rosatom at a time when governments are imposing sanctions on Russia. Green League chair and former environment minister Ville Niinistö said: "There is a sense of Finlandisation here. We are giving the Russians the very leverage they are looking for with the west and the EU. This puts us into a very vulnerable position ... Bluntly speaking, it is totally bewildering that the rest of the government thinks this is OK."10

Olli Rehn, a senior member of Finland's opposition Centre party and former EU economics commissioner, warned on September 28 that the Fennovoima plan was "economically uncertain and politically crippled" and that "Finland has a history of large industrial policy mistakes that have become politically and economically costly".11

Rehn said the project is inconsistent with calls from the European Parliament to consider freezing nuclear co-operation with Russia, for a reduction of energy reliance on Russia, and a cancellation of any newly-planned energy projects with Russia.

"In line with this, the Finnish government would do wisely to revisit the political and economic sense of the Rosatom deal," Rehn said. "It is also a question of excessive energy dependence. There are other ways to ensure reasonably priced basic energy for the Finnish industry. And we should not crowd out substantial investment in renewable energy sources."

References:

1. Reuters, 25 Sept 2014, 'Finnish government rejects Olkiluoto 4 nuclear permit extension', http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL6N0RQ24C20140925

2. 16 Sept 2014, 'Ministry Casts Doubt On Construction Licence For Olkiluoto-4',

www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2014/09/16/ministry-casts-doubt-on-construct...

3. Jussi Rosendahl, 19 Sept 2014, 'Finnish government nods to Russia-backed nuclear plant, Greens quit', http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/72213

4. 18 Sept 2014, 'Gov't accepts Fennovoima changes − Greens leave cabinet',

http://yle.fi/uutiset/govt_accepts_fennovoima_changes--greens_leave_cabi...

5. 16 Sept 2014, 'Coalition government cracking at the seams over nuclear applications', http://yle.fi/uutiset/coalition_government_cracking_at_the_seams_over_nu...

6. 15 Sept 2014, 'Economic minister says Fennovoima reactor can go ahead, Greens may quit cabinet', http://yle.fi/uutiset/economic_minister_to_announce_nuclear_decision_gre...

7. Reuters, 9 Sept 2014,

http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL5N0RA0OZ20140909

8. www.fennovoima.fi/en/fennovoima/media/press-releases/press-releases/new-...

9. 16 Sept 2014, 'Decision nears on Finnish approval amendments',

www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Decision-nears-on-Finnish-approval-amendme...

10. 17 Sept 2014, 'Green walkout would prompt early election, opposition claims',

http://yle.fi/uutiset/green_walkout_would_prompt_early_election_oppositi...

11. David Crouch and Peter Spiegel, 29 Sept 2014, 'Finland under more pressure over Russian N-plant plan', www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b659d358-47a5-11e4-ac9f-00144feab7de.html