Finland’s economic minister says Fennovoima reactor can go ahead, Greens may quit cabinet

Minister Jan Vapaavuori at his 15 September press conference. (Yle)
Minister Jan Vapaavuori at his 15 September press conference. (Yle)
Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori has announced that he will not recommend that the government and Parliament approve the application of power company Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) to build a fourth nuclear reactor at its Olkiluoto power plant, but he would recommend approval of a revised plan by the Fennovoima consortium for a new Russian-built plant near Raahe.

Both projects had been preliminarily approved in the past, but the companies have sought significant changes in the permits. TVO wanted a nearly four-year extension on its permit, due to delays in construction of the Olkiluoto 3 reactor, and Fennovoima plans to build a different type of reactor with a different supplier than originally envisaged. It would be built by the Russian state-owned company Rosatom.

At the press conference, Vapaavuori said he will bring the issues before the cabinet on Thursday.

He stressed that the situation is unprecedented, as a Finnish utility has never before asked for changes in a nuclear application.

A mock-up of the envisioned Olkiluoto 4 unit. (TVO)
A mock-up of the envisioned Olkiluoto 4 unit. (TVO)

Vapaavuori said that his ministry would not recommend granting an extension to TVO’s application. In a statement on the ministry website, he said: “The supplementary application for a deadline extension by Teollisuuden Voima to a decision-in-principle will be presented for rejection.”

However Vapaavuori gave cautious approval to the revised plan by the Fennovoima consortium for a new Russian-built plant near Raahe. The minister imposed a key caveat, however.

In the statement, he specified: “The supplement of the application by Fennovoima to a decision-in-principle will be presented for approval with one precondition for issuing the construction license: at least 60 per cent of the shares must be in Finnish ownership.”

Vapaavuori said that as far as he knew, the EU has not commented on Finland’s plan for launching a major investment project with the Russian state during a period of economic sanctions over Ukraine.

Green repeat of 2002?

The Green League has indicated it will quit the government if it approves any new nuclear reactors – and that the party considers both of these projects to now be in effect new reactors.

Its chair, Ville Niinistö, has scheduled a press conference for 4 pm to say whether or not the party will stay in the cabinet until its term ends next spring. Without the Greens’ 10 seats, the four remaining government parties would have a razor-thin majority of 102 seats in the 200-seat legislature.

The Greens left the government in 2002 when it approved the Olkiluoto 3 reactor. That unit is not expected to be ready before late 2018.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Oil and gas consultations in Canada’s eastern Arctic next week, CBC News

Greenland: Statoil awarded exploration licence off Greenland, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Oil, Industry and Arctic Sustainability, Deutsche Welle’s Ice-Blog

Russia:  Russia sees Wrangel Island oil and gas potential; Greenpeace eyes an eastern Arctic front, Alaska Dispatch

United States:  Gasline partners take steps toward permitting, marketing of project in Alaska, Alaska Public Radio Network

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