24 May 2002 – Finland’s Parliament voted today by a margin of 107 to 92 to approve an application to built the country’s fifth nuclear reactor giving the applicant, Teollisuuden Voima (TVA), five years in which to apply for a construction permit.

The vote had been finely balanced with public opinion equally split on the issue. Only within the last week have polls shown the balance of opinion within Finland in favour of the expansion of nuclear power production.

In January the government approved the application in principle but today’s vote, confirming that the application was for the overall good of society, was the final political decision in the process.

There is likely to be a competitive bidding process for work and the owners of TVO will make their final decision on the choice of the plant type on the basis of the result of this bidding. Before submitting the permit application, the company must also choose between its two proposals for the plant site. The sites proposed are Hastholmen in Loviisa and Olkiluoto in Eurajoki. Both municipalities already have two nuclear reactors and have stated their willingness to receive the plant.

The construction permit and the operating licence, which is to be applied for at a later date, will be handled by the Finnish government. The process will comprise a wide-scoped statutory consultation and hearing procedures. It has been estimated that the government will have concluded the construction permit’s handling process by the year 2005. If the decision is favourable, an application for the statutory operating licence is expected after approximately a four-year construction period. Commissioning of the plant unit could be envisaged at the end of the decade.

The energy policy decision now ratified supports the implementation of the National Climate Strategy adopted last year.

“Finland is now better equipped to meet her international emissions reduction commitments. The decision-in-principle now ratified is based on the view that the nuclear power option is the most cost-effective alternative, both in terms of central government finances and national economy, for generation of baseload power within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, ” the Department of Trade and Industry said in a statement.

“Ratification by the Finnish Parliament of the Government’s positive decision on new nuclear power was a correct solution in view of the overall interest of society,” said Juhani Santaholma, President of Finnish Energy Industries
Federation Finergy.

The Federation believes that the decision offers the opportunity to retain diversified electricity supply architecture in Finland in the future. Nuclear power accounts for some 40 per cent of the Finnish electricity mix.

Santaholma said, “The positive nuclear power decision will facilitate the achievement of the national climate objectives in Finland during the first commitment period
2008 to 2012 of the Kyoto Protocol and especially during the subsequent commitment periods with even stricter emission limitations.”

Finland forecasts an increasing demand for electricity. Without additional nuclear capacity it faced the choice of relying heavily on Russia for imported gas or allowing coal fired production to increase, making the achievement of carbon emission reduction targets difficult.

Finland now stands out among western European countries in planning growth in its nuclear industry. Near neighbours Sweden and Germany have legislation in place to phase out nuclear production although the Finns point out that Asia and Eastern Europe continues an active nuclear power programme.