Nuclear, Reactors

Fins seek construction licence for new nuclear unit

9 January 2004 – Finnish electricity utility TVO on Thursday applied for permission to build the country’s fifth nuclear plant, a 1600 MW pressurized water reactor, the government said. The permit, subject to approval from various government departments, likely will be granted early next year, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Last month, TVO chose a French-German consortium of Framatome ANP and Siemens AG to build the new plant, at an estimated cost of €3bn ($3.7bn). The new reactor — the first to be built in the European Union in more than 10 years — will be operational in 2009. It is expected to produce power for 60 years.

The ministry said it will pay special attention to safety standards and will also heed public opinion when handling the application.

TVO was the only company that applied to build the reactor after a 2002 government decision to boost the use of nuclear power. That decision was approved in a 107-to-92 vote in Parliament.

Some 60 Finnish companies will be involved in the project, the country’s biggest to date. Construction will begin next year, but preparations will begin onsite later this year.

The nuclear power plant unit called Olkiluoto 3 will be located on the island of Olkiluoto, in the borough of Eurajoki. Olkiluoto is 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of the capital, at the site of two nuclear reactors each 750 MW in size.

Two other reactors, each 500 MW, are at Loviisa, 90 kilometres (55 miles) east of Helsinki. The four units produce more than a fourth of Finland’s electricity.

Although environmentalists have opposed the idea of a new reactor and the Green Party resigned in protest from the previous government coalition, surveys indicate that Finns seem to be warming to atomic power. In a poll before lawmakers voted in May 2002, 44 percent of 1500 respondents said they would approve of a fifth reactor while the same amount said they would oppose it.

In a similar poll last September, 45 percent of 1028 respondents said they approved of a new reactor, while 28 per cent were opposed.

Safety standards at Finnish nuclear plants are among the highest in the world, according to radiation safety officials. The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority also has renewed security requirements for new plants demanding protection against strikes by commercial and military aircraft following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

The last time a nuclear reactor was built in the EU was in France in 1991, according to FORATOM, the European Atomic Forum, that promotes the use of nuclear power in Europe.