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Fortum, Helen consider small nuclear power plant cooperation

Small modular reactors generate about a third of the power offered by traditional nuclear reactors, according to the IAEA.

Helen's coal-fired Hanasaari Power Plant in Helsinki is set to be decommissioned in April 2023. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

Two major Finnish energy firms, Fortum and Helen, are looking into the possibility of nuclear power generation, particularly with small modular reactors (SMR), the firms announced in a joint statement on Friday.

Fortum is a state-majority owned energy company, while Helen is Helsinki's city-owned energy utility — and both firms have shown interest in possibly harnessing the power of SMRs.

The different backgrounds of both companies would help in such an effort, according to Harri Mattila, Helen's SVP of energy procurement and wholesale operations.

"Helen has been interested in SMRs for some time already and has also expressed this publicly. We regard SMRs as one noteworthy production form of zero-emission energy for heating in Helsinki and also for electricity generation in the future," he said in the statement.

He noted that Helen has experience in managing Finland's largest district heating network while Fortum knows nuclear technologies. 

"By combining these strengths, we could create a productive cooperation that would increase Finland’s energy self-sufficiency," Mattila said.

Fortum's Jukka Hautojärvi said multi-firm cooperation makes such nuclear projects more likely to happen amid energy market uncertainty.

However, the firms noted that Finnish legislation about SMRs is still developing, and that potential sites of a small reactor were being investigated.

They said that it would be sensible to place such a reactor relatively close to a district heating facility, but locating them at longer distances could also be possible. 

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), small modular reactors have power capacities up to 300 MW(e) per unit, or about one-third of the power offered by traditional nuclear reactors.

Finland's most recent traditional nuclear reactor, Olkiluoto 3 (OL3), was scheduled to be operational about 13 years ago, but use of the facility is currently facing further delays, due to technical problems that need repairing before it can be started up again.

TVO, the company that operates OL3, said the reactor could be turned on by 11 December at the earliest, but that full-scale energy production would not be possible until 2023.

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