Suddenly, A Rush for Nuclear Applications

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) plans to submit its application to build a sixth nuclear reactor this spring. The rapid timing came as a surprise to the rival Fennovoima consortium, which is not planning to hand in its application until next year. The state says it wants any groups interested in building a new nuclear unit to apply for a permit within the next few months.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen says he wants all applications on his desk at the same time, and soon. He adds that he does not intend to wait for many months after receiving the first application -- which could be as soon as May.

Another contender, the majority-state-owned Fortum, says it will apply in August.

However Fennovoima, owned by the German energy giant E.ON and a number of small Finnish utilities, is sticking to its plan to apply next year. It is still considering four possible locations for a new reactor.

Climate Concerns Cited, Pro & Con
The state and private sector want to speed up expansion of nuclear power because climate treaties limit the use of coal, while Finland's energy self-sufficiency has dropped to one of lowest levels in Europe.

Pekkarinen says that the country must be able to ensure its own basic energy supply regardless of outside developments.

Meanwhile, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and other environmental groups argue that further development of nuclear power will not have a significant impact on Finland's emissions and discourages the development of alternative domestic energy sources.

They also point out that there is still no safe, permanent solution to the problem of radioactive waste disposal.

Construction of Finland's fifth reactor, at TVO's Olkiluoto plant on the west coast, is badly behind schedule and over budget.

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