Finnish parliament agrees plans for two reactors

Thu Jul 1, 2010 4:20pm BST

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* Debate centred on industry needs, greenhouse gas

* Critics say greener power opportunity missed



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By Terhi Kinnunen

HELSINKI, July 1 (Reuters) - Finland sealed plans to build two new nuclear reactors on Thursday, a move that will prompt billions of euros of investments as the country seeks to meet rising energy demand without boosting greenhouse gas emissions.

Parliament voted 120-72 in support of the reactor proposal from utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), and 121-71 for the application from the Fennovoima consortium.

The new reactors are expected to come online by around 2020, raising Finland's total number to seven. Finland's government said in a statement it expected to be in a position to consider construction licences by 2014 at the earliest.

The combined cost of building the two reactors would be around seven to 10 billion euros ($12.24 billion), funded by the consortia building the plants.

Fennovoima's largest owner is Germany's E.ON (EONGn.DE), with a 34 percent stake, with the remaining 66 percent held by a raft of utilities and firms including stainless steel maker Outokumpu (OUT1V.HE) and steel maker Rautaruukki RTRKS.HE.

TVO's largest share holder, with a stake of some 57 percent, is utility Pohjolan Voima Oy, whose main owners include timber firms UPM-Kymmene (UPM1V.HE) and Stora Enso (STERV.HE). The second largest owner in TVO is utility Fortum (FUM1V.HE), with around a one-quarter stake.

Finland's fifth reactor, under construction by France's Areva CEPFi.PA for TVO and originally due to come on stream in 2009, has been plagued by delays and disputes and is only expected to start producing electricity in 2013.



INDUSTRY NEEDS

Debate before the vote centred on Finland's need to supply the needs of industry, meet greenhouse gas emission targets, and reduce dependence on imported electricity from Russia.

Before the vote veteran politician Pertti Salolainen from co-ruling Conservatives told public broadcaster YLE that he would hesitantly vote yes to nuclear energy because "there are only bad and even worse options to choose from".

Critics said debate about the plans was pushed through without enough time for discussion, and Finland was missing a chance to invest in greener technology and energy. Potential safety issues were not a large part of the debate.

The vote is the latest development globally supporting the growth of nuclear power, increasingly seen as a way for countries to sate energy demand while keeping greenhouse gas emissions in check.

Last month neighbouring Sweden's parliament voided a 30-year-old ban on building new reactors, allowing for the construction of new reactors at existing plants from Jan. 1 next year to replace the 10 ageing units that still produce roughly 40 percent of the Nordic country's electricity. [ID:nLDE62L0W8]

A raft of European countries are either extending the lives of their ageing reactors to bridge a gap to greener energy or planning to build new plants, sensitive moves in a region where nuclear power has long been viewed with suspicion.

For factboxes of European nuclear plant builds or life extensions click on [ID:nLDE6600RF] and [ID:nL5449144]



HEATED DEBATE

Debate surrounding the Finnish vote heated up earlier in the week, with Greenpeace unveiling a massive tombstone to energy "selfishness" on Tuesday. It said it would engrave on stone the names of all parliamentarians who vote for extra nuclear power and erect it in central Helsinki in late summer.

"We will make sure that voters will remember in election time who voted for safe energy and who voted for increasing the nuclear waste," said Lauri Myllyvirta, energy campaigner at Greenpeace in Finland.

Myllyvirta added he expected that after parliamentary elections in April 2011 the new government would receive a building application for an eighth nuclear reactor from utility Fortum, which was left empty handed on this round.

Following the TVO vote there was a delay as three protestors yelled out against the decision and threw confetti down on parliamentarians, shouting "shame on you". Security personnel eventually dragged the protestors out of the hall.

The vote came in a rare summer session for parliament due to a delay in assembling material for the votes, marking its first July sitting since 1962.

In front of the parliament house some 400 protestors demonstrated against nuclear energy.

For more information on the TVO and Fennovoima bids, double click on [ID:nLDE65R0XP]

(Reporting by Terhi Kinnunen, Writing by Brett Young; editing by Keiron Henderson)