Sunday, May 9, 2010

Finland to build two new reactors

Russian neighbor seeks energy independence with nuclear energy

finland nucler locationsFinland’s parliament is expected next month to approve government requests for authorization to proceed with two new proposals to build nuclear reactors in that country. The country’s political leadership based the request on two objectives – achieving energy independence from natural gas supplied by Russia and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to wire service reports, Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen said, “This [proposal] makes Finland 100% self-sufficient in energy. It provides Finnish industry electricity at an affordable cost.”

Electricity consumption in Finland is the highest in Europe, twice that of Germany, due to extreme cold that affects much of the country during the long winter. Finland’s current nuclear reactors provide 2,700 MW of electricity or about one-third of electricity demand. A new reactor being built at Olkiluoto will provide another 1,600 MW. The new reactors will add between 2,500 and 4,300 MW depending on the design chosen through competitive procurement. The designs being offered range in size from 1,000-to-1,700 MW.

The government will grant permits to two consortiums composed of Finnish companies and European partners. A total of 63 firms are reportedly planning to be involved in the projects. Two sites in the northern half of the country are being considered for new reactors to stimulate economic development.

Cost over runs and schedule delays at Olkiluoto-3, which is the country’s fifth reactor and is being built by Areva and Finnish utility TVO, apparently did not deter the government from going ahead with the new reactors. At the plant currently under construction, Areva has set aside 2.3 billion euros for unanticipated costs.

Opposition to the planned construction of two new reactors came from Finnish Green Party and Environmental Minister Anni Sinnemaeki. She objected that the new reactors would be “dangerous” because they are “based on foreign technology.”

Her comment flies in the face of the fact that last year Russian natural gas reportedly cost the country 365 million euros and fueled 75% of the nation’s imported electricity which is two-thirds of total electrical demand. It appears the opposition has a selective view of the “dangers” of imported energy technologies.

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