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Finnish group, Rosatom reach agreement on new nuclear power plant

Sept. 6, 2013 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

HELSINKI, Finland, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- A consortium seeking to build a nuclear power plant in northern Finland said this week it has reached a deal to partner with Russian nuclear company Rosatom.

Fennovoima, a group composed of 60 shareholders including Finnish stainless steel maker Outokumpu and retailer Kesko, announced Tuesday negotiations with state-owned Rosatom had produced an agreement in which it would buy 34 percent of the company and finance the building of the proposed plant at Pyhajoki.

The agreement came after Germany's E.On pulled out of the $8.4 billion Hanhikivi 1 project last year. It now goes before Fennovoima's shareholders, who must decide whether to accept the deal by the end of October.

Fennovoima and Rosatom said their goal is to sign a contract for investment decisions and delivery of the 1.2-gigawatt power plant by the end of this year.

Rosatom is proposing to use an AES-2006 pressurized water reactor, the latest in the Russian line of VVER [Vodo-Vodyanoi Energetichesky] reactor designs. Fennovoima said it meets requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and European Union, and is to be adapted meet Finnish national safety standards.

Two VVER-440 units are already operating in Finland at Loviisa, which it said have been "operating safely for decades," and noted that Rosatom currently has orders to build AES-2006 units abroad and in Russia.

Finnish Economic Affairs Minister Jan Vapaavuori praised the agreement, asserting the benefits of the Pyhajoki project aren't limited to the country's energy policy.

"It is important from the point of view of Finland's energy and industrial policy that the pending nuclear projects are implemented as planned," he said. "In these times and in this economic situation, projects as large as this also have major significance from the point of view of economic and industrial policy for the region and for Finland."

But, he added, it's now up to Fennovoima's shareholders to decide if the effort can pass muster.

"Progress of the project depends ultimately on the owners' commitment to [it]," he said. "The process that starts now will examine and confirm that commitment."

Under the proposal, the project partners will receive electricity from the plant at cost, recovering their investments through obtaining power at cheaper prices than are now available through the Nord Pool Spot market, through which 70 percent of the energy consumed in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia is traded.

The rest of the power would be sold at a profit through the Nord Pool market.

While the exact amount of Rosatom's proposed investment wasn't detailed, the Russian business daily Kommersant pegged it at $2 billion. Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said Rosatom intends to recover its investment in a similar way -- by selling at retail prices into the Finnish market.

Nord Pool Spot prices, however, vary significantly from year to year, and some analysts believe the construction of new nuclear power plants in Europe can be risky due to the costs of fuel and increased security requirements after the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

But the sources told Kommersant Rosatom will help recoup its investment through sale of Russian nuclear fuel to the plant and sees it as aiding its drive to develop expertise in meeting licensing requirements in developed foreign markets -- especially Finland, which has some of the tightest nuclear safety standards in the world.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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