| HELSINKI, Sept 2
HELSINKI, Sept 2 While Germany is phasing out
nuclear power, Finland is looking to build more, staying its
course in pursuit of cheap electricity despite the Fukushima
disaster in Japan.
A Finnish consortium will soon announce the location of a
new reactor, underscoring the country's determination to curb
its reliance on Russian energy and help its metals and forestry
sectors stay competitive.
Fennovoima, led by German utility E.ON's (EONGn.DE) Finnish
subsidiary, plans to announce the new site as soon as a court
rules on land use claims. The two candidate sites,
Pyhajoki and Simo, are both in northern Finland.
Finland's parliament last year decided to allow Fennovoima
and Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) to construct new nuclear reactors,
which are expected to come on line by around 2020, and raise the
number of reactors in Finland to seven.
Economy Affairs Minister Jyri Hakamies, who is also
responsible for energy issues, said Finland launched a safety
review and stress test results are due at the end of the year,
but there had not been much question over whether to proceed.
"There hasn't been a strong debate after Japan that we
should change our decision," Hakamies told Reuters. "I think
Finns are very rational, pragmatic."
Nuclear energy has not held a popular image in
Europe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and less so since the
Fukushima disaster in March. Germany has decided to phase out
nuclear power, and Italy has shelved plans to build new plants.
Proponents of Finland's nuclear policies say the economy
cannot afford to do the same as Germany.
Finland's long, cold winters mean high energy consumption,
and its forest businesses and steel makers depend on cheap
Those sectors remain vital as flagship tech company Nokia
no longer looks like the growth driver of a decade
While Finland hopes to increase its use of
renewable energy from 31 percent last year to around 60 percent
by 2050, nuclear energy -- which accounted for around 28 percent
of electricity use -- is seen as a key element of economic
growth in the meantime.
While Germany is expected to import more energy from
countries like Russia, Finland is trying to curb dependence on
Russian energy on fears economic growth in Russia could make
imports costlier in the long term.
Businesses have been stepping up their attempts at
energy self-sufficiency, with paper makers UPM-Kymmene
and Stora Enso owning stakes in TVO and
stainless steel company Outokumpu holding shares in
Originally aiming to generate power for its own
mills, UPM is now the country's second-biggest electricity
producer after Fortum . Its capacity of about 3,000
megawatts is set to rise with the third and fourth reactors.
Supporters of Finland's nuclear energy policy also say the
country's security policies are robust.
"We expect that in the existing plans, the security level is
high. And also, on those which are under process, they will be.
Security is an important factor but I'm not worried," Hakamies
Critics, however, say that confidence reflects a feeling of
Finnish exceptionalism, similar to some attitudes in Japan
before the March accident and one which Finnish rock band Eppu
Normaali satirised with a hit song in the early 1980's:
"Uranium splits and the lamp produces light, but in no other
country than Finland is it without a risk."
DELAYS AND WASTE WORRIES
There are also worries that not everything is going as
smoothly as planned, with the construction of Olkiluoto 3
plagued by delays and ballooning costs.
The reactor was originally scheduled to begin commercial
electricity production at the end of April 2009, but TVO now
expects to begin commercial use during the latter half of 2013.
TVO and builder Areva-Siemens (SIEGn.DE) have
taken their payment dispute to the International Chamber of
Critics also say a major concern is how Finland will handle
nuclear waste. Radioactive waste from Europe's reactors must be
buried in secure bunkers.
"From an environmental organisations' point of view, nuclear
waste is one of the biggest problems," Greenpeace Nordic's
energy campaigner Jehki Harkonen said. "There is always a risk
Posiva, jointly owned by TVO and Fortum, is planning a
bunker in the island of Olkiluoto as a final disposal site for
One sticking point has been whether it will accept
Fennovoima's request to add its waste to the bunker. TVO and
Fortum have said there will be no room.
"There is a lot of cooperation we can do with Fennovoima.
But the room in Olkiluoto cave will be limited, it is a small
island and it does not have a lot of room," said TVO spokeswoman
A Fennovoima spokeswoman said this week that it was ready to
negotiate with Posiva and its owners.
(Editing by Jason Neely)