BRUSSELS – Finland’s plan to build a nuclear reactor supplied by Russia’s state-owned Rosatom will lessen the Nordic country’s dependence on imported energy supplies, Fennovoima’s Project Director told New Europe in an interview.
“Finland is rather dependent on imported electricity. Even today over 20% is imported mainly from Russia or Sweden so in this case we create more domestic production instead of importing,” Minna Forsström said on the sidelines of the European Nuclear Power Conference in Brussels, adding that some units in Finland will have to be decommissioned at the time that the new reactor is in place. “Instead of importing electricity from Russia, we will be producing more of it by ourselves,” Forsström said, brushing off EU concerns about energy dependence on Russia.
Both the European Commission’s energy chiefs, Arias Canete and Vice President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic, are keen on lessening the EU’s reliance on Russia.
Sources close to Fennovoima note that the project is in line with the EU’s energy security strategy of last year which says increasing domestic electricity generation through nuclear power advances EU energy goals.
On June 30, Finnish consortium Fennovoima submitted an application for a construction licence to build the nuclear reactor, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy said. The plan of approximately €6 billion will strengthen Finland’s energy ties with Moscow while strengthening domestic power generation.
The Finnish parliament has set a requirement for the project to be 60% owned by Finnish or EU investors. “We need to meet the target of 60%. Now it has been met,” Forsström said.
Finnish utility Fortum said two weeks ago it has not reached an agreement with its Russian partners to take a 15% stake in the project. “Now we have a new player within the Finnish holding company, a Croatian company – Migrit Solar Energy instead of Fortum. That’s the way we go,” Forsström said.
The 1,200-megawatt Hanhiviki-1 reactor, Finland’s sixth, will be built by 2024. “Hopefully we estimate that together with STUK (Finnish regulator) that we will get the grounded license at the end of 2017 and then start the first concrete phase,” Forsström said, adding that Fennovoima works “very closely” with Rosatom on all the stages of the licensing and Rosatom will do the construction.
A weak economy and low energy prices have also forced some Finnish investors to reconsider their participation. “Finland needs big investments nowadays in order to boost economic growth during the project phase but also the industry in the long run needs stable energy in order to get more industrial investments in Finland,” Forsström said.
The Fennovoima plant was originally approved by the parliament in 2010. The project has prompted opposition in Sweden, where 20,000 people signed a petition opposing the new reactor. Pyhäjoki is located just 155 kilometres from the Swedish coast.
“In many countries this is a kind of political decision. Since we got the parliament’s favoring, I would say there is a future for nuclear power in Finland but nuclear is always a little bit controversial, sure. However, Finland needs its own production – we don’t have wind and sun every day especially in the winter months so we do need some kind of a basic solution and nuclear power can be a nice solution for that,” Forsström said. “We don’t have oil, we don’t have sun, we don’t have wind during the peak seasons so we do have to have something and since we cannot be dependent on our next-door neighbors on electricity, our options are limited,” she said.
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