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Finland to start constructing nuclear plant with Russian reactor in 2021

Fennovoima CEO tells NE the nuclear plant would also help Finland meet its climate change targets

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SOCHI, Russia – Fennovoima is proceeding with plans to build the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant in the northern Finnish city of Pyhäjoki and expects to receive the construction license in 2021, Fennovoima CEO Toni Hemminki told New Europe in an interview on the sidelines of the 2019 Atomexpo XI in Sochi on 15 April. Fennovoima had originally expected to start construction of the plant in 2019.

“At the end of the year, the supplier, RAOS Project, communicated to us that, according to the estimation, we can start the construction in 2021 and then that means commercial operational date would be the 2028,” he said, referring to RAOS Project Oy, a subsidiary of Rosatom Energy International. “Those are the milestones that we are working on accordingly at the moment and we are also fine tuning the detailed schedule for it with the supplier,” he said, adding that the structure with the supplier is the same but there have been some organizational changes within Fennovoima. “We have realized that we need or we wanted to raise the bar of the organization so we can support the supplier better to fulfill the Finnish requirements,” Hemminki said.

He reminded that the plant would have power of 1200 megawatts, using a Russian VVER-1200 reactor. “That’s 9 terawatt hours annually — same plant, same project, same supplier, same owner the only thing that has changed is the schedule,” he said.

The license phase is planned to be finished in 2021, he said. “Basically when you get the construction license, then you can start to build nuclear-related buildings and you can start to manufacture nuclear-related equipment. So we plan to get the construction license in 2021 and then start the construction immediately,” the Fennovoima CEO said.

Hemminki argued that building the plant in Finland would be a showcase for the Rosatom State Atomiс Energy Corporation. “We might be the only customer of Rosatom that is commercial. Typically, I would guess that customers of Rosatom are either countries or they are fully-owned by the country or the government so they are kind of fully state-owned companies. In our case, we are commercially established and operating company so we are a bit of a different type of customer for them,” he said, adding that another difference is that Finland has readily available nuclear infrastructure. “We have ministries, we have a regulatory body, and we have a law act degree and nuclear safety requirements as well from the regulatory party. So they are in different circumstances than with the countries that are just establishing all that infrastructure,” Hemminki said.

He noted that Russia would provide nuclear fuel to the Finnish plant for at least 10 years. Turning to sanctions against Russia, he said they did not affect the nuclear industry. “Globally, there are a few supplies going to different countries from Russia. I think this is functioning and for our project as well, we have not seen any direct effect at the moment,” Hemminki said.

The Fennovoima CEO told New Europe that the nuclear plant would also help Finland meet its climate change targets. “That will be be 9 terawatt hours of CO2 free electricity for Finland so I think that we have a quite significant contribution for that. And I think that overall in Finland people are starting to kind of connect the fight against climate change and the role of nuclear in it,” he said.

He reminded that Finland has natural gas but the country’s gas network is limited. “We have hydro, nuclear and then we have quite a lot biomass-based production,” he said, referring to the country’s energy mix that would help reduce CO2 emissions.

This year there was a new survey done showing that 47% of the Finnish people are supporting an increase of nuclear and only 15 percent are against nuclear, he said. In the project’s host municipality Pyhäjoki the support has remained at 73%.“So the climate discussion has changed the environment a lot and Finland is planning to ban the use of coal by 2029 so approximately the time when our plant is planning to be operating,” he said.

He acknowledged that nuclear waste is a long-term fundamental issue, saying: “We are going to select the locations for final disposal in 2040 so that’s a very long-term project so it’s not acute at the moment.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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