Finland: Nuclear reactor project still possible despite cabinet rejection

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A mock-up of the envisioned Olkiluoto 4 unit. (TVO)
A mock-up of the envisioned Olkiluoto 4 unit. (TVO)
Finland’s prime minister Alexander Stubb has denied that the government’s rejection of an application for a nuclear licence by energy company TVO spells the end of the project to build a fourth nuclear reactor at the Olkiluoto power station in southwest Finland.

Earlier on Thursday the cabinet voted 10-3 against granting TVO more time to apply for a permit to build the new nuclear reactor at the site in Eurajoki.

Stubb said the decision does not mean that the government’s agreement-in-principle to the project, signed in May 2010, has been overturned.

Addressing reporters after the vote, Stubb said that the rejection does not spell the end for the project. TVO will have the opportunity to re-apply for a nuclear permit sometime before June next year.

“Decisions on nuclear power are always tough. For, against, sometimes in between. There isn’t a single decision on nuclear power in this country’s history where the cabinet voted unanimously,” Stubb said.

Insufficient assurances

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Economic Affairs Minister Jan Vapaavuori said the time extension for the permit was rejected because TVO had failed to provide satisfactory assurances that the fourth reactor would ever be built. Construction of a third Olkiluoto reactor has been beset with long delays.

Earlier this month Vapaavuori recommended that the cabinet reject TVO’s previous application for a licence to build a fourth reactor at Olkiluoto. The cabinet instead gave their backing to a proposal by energy company Fennovoima for a new nuclear plant in Pyhäjoki, western Finland.

Disappointed

Jarmo Tanhua, TVO’s managing director, said he was very disappointed at the government’s decision, adding that the company had so far pumped 80 million euros into the Olkiluoto 4 project.

“The decision has been made, that’s the most important thing. We have spent a long time preparing and taking this project forward. Of course we’re disappinted,” he said.

Tanhua said the firm has not yet decided on its next move.

The Finance Minister, Antti Rinne, and his SDP cabinet colleagues Lauri Ihalainen and Krista Kiuru, were the only three ministers to vote in favour of allowing a new application from TVO. Rinne has previously called for the TVO project to be brought before parliament at the same time as when MPs consider the Fennovoima proposal.

Related stories from around the North:

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

Finland:  Nuclear power project debates expose political divide in Finland, Yle 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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