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Finland approves two new nuclear reactors

HELSINKI (AFP) - The Nordic country aims to be self-sufficient in electricity production.

Finnish delays headache for French nuclear firm
Most Finns oppose new nuclear reactors

Finland's parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a government proposal to allow utility groups Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) and Fennovoima build two new nuclear reactors.

The government has argued that allowing the two new reactors to be built will help cut greenhouse gas emissions and make the Nordic country self-sufficient in electricity production.

In the non-partisan vote, Fennovoima received 121 votes in favour, 71 against and two abstaining, while TVO garnered 120 yes votes, 72 against and two abstaining. Five members of parliament were absent.

The difference in votes between the two projects was due to the fact that some members of parliament had wanted just one new nuclear reactor to be built.

All Green League MPs meanwhile voted against the bill proposed in April by the centre-right government of Matti Vanhanen, who recently resigned and handed the reins to Mari Kiviniemi.

She said Thursday she was pleased at the outcome of the parliamentary vote.

"This is one of the most important decisions my government is going to make, because it really improves Finland's competitiveness and will create new jobs, and thus also increase the economic growth," Kiviniemi told AFP.

Finland's four existing nuclear reactors were built in the 1970s, and a fifth unit, a 1,600-megawatt third-generation reactor, is being built on TVO's site in southwestern Finland by France's Areva and Germany's Siemens in a project plagued by delays and ballooning costs.

In April, the government rejected a third permit application from majority state-owned utility Fortum, which operates two reactors in Loviisa in southeastern Finland and which owns a major chunk of TVO.

Once an opponent to more nuclear power, Kiviniemi said Thursday she was now convinced building more reactors was necessary.

"We're obliged to reach a level of 38 percent renewable resources. We're struggling against climate change and we also need to use nuclear power. We have to look at the energy policy not only in details but as a whole," she said.

Jarmo Tanhua, the head of TVO which already operates two nuclear power reactors in Olkiluoto in southwestern Finland and has commissioned the building of what is slated to become the world's first third-generation pressurised water reactor, agreed.

"The decision made today is an important milestone towards the EU vision of CO2 neutral energy production," he said in an email responding to questions from AFP.

"Placing greater emphasis on nuclear power and renewable energy sources will help us achieve significant cuts in emissions in electricity production," he added.

Several hundred demonstrators however gathered outside the parliament and a few activists with environmental group Greenpeace briefly protested the voted inside parliament before they were led out.

Labour Minister Anni Sinnemaeki of the Green League also said she was not surprised but "very disapointed" by the vote.

Fennovoima, whose owners include numerous Finnish companies and the Nordic arm of German electricity group E.ON, is a newcomer to Finland's nuclear landscape and wants to build its plant either in Simo or Pyhaejoki on Finland's western coast.

"The next step will be in 2011, when the location for the nuclear power plant is chosen between the two greenfield sites being developed in Pyhaejoki and Simo," Fennovoima chief executive Tapio Saarenpaeae said in an email to AFP.

Construction of the new power plant would begin in 2014 and it was expected to begin generating electricity in 2020, he added.

Last Updated (Thursday, 01 July 2010 10:20)

 

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