Thursday, July 1, 2010

Finland approves plan for two more reactors

The country is serious about energy independence and dealing with climate change

parliament_house_helsinki_finland_photo_finland_tourist_boardThe BBC reports Finland's parliament approved the construction of two new nuclear power stations by a vote of 120-72, which indicates the ruling coalition holds a majority on the issue in the 200 member chamber. The bill was opposed by Green League and the Left Alliance. The vote was briefly delayed due to a crowd of several hundred anti-nuclear demonstrators who entered the building.

The two new units will support the country's objective of achieving energy independence from natural gas supplies from Russia. The government said it expects license applications for the reactors by 2014. The two new units could start-up by 2020. The two new reactors, if built, would bring the total fleet to seven units. Finland has four nuclear units in commercial operation that produce about 30% of its electricity.

Parliament's vote referenced proposals by Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) and by Finland’s Fennovoima Oy to build the two new units. A decision on reactor designs was not on the table. The New York Times reported that the prosposals are for light water reactors to produce 3,200 MW of electricity. According to a report by NucNet, the municipalities of both Simo and Pyhäjoki have said they are willing to host the new plants.

TVO president and chief executive officer Jarmo Tanhua said the vote was “an important milestone towards the EU vision of CO2 neutral energy production”. He added: “Placing greater emphasis on nuclear power and renewable energy sources will help us achieve significant cuts in emissions in electricity production.”

The Bloomberg wire service reported that the government promoted the measure based on its impact on the Finnish economy.

Mauri Pekkarinen“This is a big step for the Finnish economy,” Economy Minister Mauri Pekkarinen (right) said after the decision. “It is clear stimulus that will help jolt the economy out of the apathy that’s been plaguing Finland and the rest of Europe.”

He told the New York Times there would be no public subsidy for the two new reactors which could cost $10 billion. He said the private sector would handle financing of the project.

Finland also depends on biomass (wood) and hydropower for its energy needs. The country is among Europe’s highest per-capita users of electricity due to bitter arctic cold that sweeps across the country in winter.

OL3 status update

The action in Finland comes as schedule delays and cost over runs for the first-of-a-kind reactor at Olkiluoto-3 (OL3) push the start of revenue service to 2013.

Delays and cost over runs at OL3 have hit hard in Areva’s balance sheet. The firm said June 23 it expects to report a loss for the first half of 2010 and will make a [euro]400 million provision for additional costs associated with the Finnish reactor project.

There was some progress at OL3 with the installation of the reactor pressure vessel on June 21. The 420 ton unit was the first of series of actions to install heavy components of the plant. Areva said in a press release steam generators will be installed by the end of 2010.

Areva’s U.S. plans updated

Anne LauvergeonMeanwhile, Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon (right) told Forbes Magazine in an interview Areva expects Constellation Energy to get a federal loan guarantee in 2010 for a planned U.S. version of the 1,650 MW EPR reactor at Calvert Cliffs, MD. The project is expected to get an NRC license and break ground in 2012.

She also said the company is serious about a long-shot reactor project in Fesno, CA. The state has a three-decade old ban on new reactors in place, but depends on nuclear energy from reactors in Arizona for electricity to power the southern third of the state. The ban says that as long as there is no solution to dealing with spent nuclear fuel, no new reactors can be built in the state.

Lauvergeon visited the farming region in late March of this year. She said if a reactor is built there, the spent fuel will be taken back to France where it will be recycled thus bypassing the core element of California’s ban on new plants.

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