(Adds Greens, more background)
By Jussi Rosendahl
HELSINKI, March 27 Finnish retailer Kesko
on Thursday said it would drop out of the Fennovoima
nuclear consortium, adding to concerns over a project that looks
to be heading for a showdown in parliament between members of
the ruling coalition.
Kesko, which owned around 2 percent of Fennovoima shares,
said it saw increased risks in the consortium's plan to build a
4 to 6 billion euro ($5.5-$8.3 billion) reactor in western
"The financial, contractual and schedule prerequisites for
the project still contain uncertainties, and it (Kesko)
estimates that their risks have increased," the company said in
With Kesko's exit, Finnish ownership in Fennovoima drops
below the 50 percent required by parliament. But while chairman
Pekka Ottavainen said the announcement came as a surprise, he
told Reuters he believed the consortium could find new Finnish
investors by the summer.
"We are having discussions with several interested
companies," Ottavainen said.
The 1,200-megawatt reactor, Finland's sixth, is aimed at
securing cheaper energy for investors including Finnish
industrial firms and municipal utilities. But a weak economy and
low energy prices have forced some to reconsider their
Germany's E.ON, originally a top investor, left
the consortium in 2012 as part of a broader strategic review,
followed by some 20 smaller owners.
Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom kept the project
alive by supplying the reactor and taking a 34-percent stake.
But the many changes to the original permit approved by the
old parliament in 2010 prompted Economy Minister Jan Vapaavuori,
part of the new coalition formed in mid-2011, to plan a
parliamentary review in the summer.
The Green party has threatened to quit the government if the
revised application is approved, on the grounds that it goes
against a condition it set when it joined the coalition that no
new nuclear permits would be granted.
"Fennovoima's situation has changed so much that effectively
we would vote on a new permit," Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto, the
chairwoman of the 10 Green members of the parliament, told
"I will not speculate on possible outcomes. But we will
stick to our prerequisites and make politics one day at a time,"
Without the Greens, the government of conservative Jyrki
Katainen would only have 102 seats in the 200-strong parliament,
which could lead to early elections, analysts said.
"I think Katainen and (finance minister Jutta) Urpilainen
would not want to carry on with a very narrow majority," said
Kimmo Gronlund, professor of politics in Abo Akademi University.
The general election is scheduled for April 2015.
A newspaper poll this week showed that 46 percent of Finns
are opposed to Fennovoima's project and 33 percent support it,
while the rest are undecided.
The survey by TNS Gallup showed that Finns had gone lukewarm
on the plant because of Rosatom's involvement after Russia
annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. It also showed the general
attitude on building new reactors was 52 percent in favour and
45 percent against, however.
The planned plant in Pyhajoki is estimated to begin
operating in 2024 and owners, including steel firms Outokumpu
and Rautaruukki, are promised electricity
at a price of less than 50 euros per megawatt-hour.
"The investment as such would not have been that significant
for us... But we considered that there were so many
uncertainties around this project that we didn't want to make
the investment," said Arja Talma, a senior vice president of
Kesko, declining to elaborate.
($1 = 0.7254 Euros)
(Editing by Sakari Suoninen and Sonya Hepinstall)