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Mixed reactions to nuclear plant as claims emerge Russia's stake could increase

Yle understands that the Fennovoima project owners are still lacking 0.9 percent of investment, meaning Rosatom could increase its stake, having previously indicated a desire to do so. However the Russian state nuclear contractor denied the claims. Meanwhile commentators pointed out that the nuclear venture's new ownership structure means more Finnish public money will be invested into the project.

Fortum
Many commentators have pointed out that the newest investor in the Fennovoima nuclear plant - energy company Fortum - is majority owned by the Finnish state, meaning more public funds are effectively going into the controversial scheme. Image: Fortum Oyj

Russia’s state nuclear contractor could increase its share in the proposed Fennovoima nuclear power plant, having previously expressed a wish to invest further in the venture.

Ministers announced on Thursday that the project to build a new nuclear power station in Pyhäjoki, western Finland, had reached the target of 60 percent EU ownership, and therefore had gained government approval.

The EU ownership limit was imposed by Finnish Parliament in response to worries over Russian energy dependence. One third of the venture is owned by a subsidiary of the Russian state nuclear contractor Rosatom.

Investment lacking

Following a last-minute deal announced just one day short of the government’s imposed deadline, the Finnish energy company Fortum joined the consortium, and steel giant Outokumpu increased its share, bringing the overall EU-owned stake in the project to 65.1 percent.

However, according to information received by Yle, the owners of the project are still lacking 0.9 percent of investment. This means in theory that Rosatom – through its Finnish subsidiary RAOS Voima – could increase its stake, having previously indicated a desire to buy into the venture further.

Last autumn Roman Djukarev, communications director for Rosatom Overseas, told Yle that the firm hoped to be able to increase its share in the project, which he described as "an excellent business operation."

However, the firm today denied that it intends to enlarge its 34 percent share in the venture.

Public money

Meanwhile on Thursday afternoon there were mixed reactions to the news that the plant would go ahead.

Many commentators subsequently pointed out that the latest ownership announcement means that more public funds are effectively being invested into the project. Energy company Fortum is majority owned by the Finnish state, while the government also owns roughly percent share of steel manufacturer Outokumpu. A number of local, state-owned utility companies are also shareholders in the Fennovoima project.

Russia dependency

Green Party leader Ville Niinistö, who walked his party out of a governing coalition last year in opposition to the nuclear project, insisted that investment by Fortum into the scheme does not overcome the problem of dependence on Russia.

”There have clearly been conversations about the relationship between Gazprom, Fortum and Rosatom, and about the Russian state’s interest in building this project. It needs to be explained why on earth the Finnish government wants such close cooperation with the Russian government over a public nuclear power venture.”

Niinistö also accused the government of breaking previously imposed conditions over the project by agreeing to extend the deadline to raise the investment from June 30 until August 6.

Mixed reactions

On the quiet streets of Pyhäjoki, where the plant is to be built, reaction was mixed. Some locals welcomed the fact that the nuclear power station would bring jobs to a region with high unemployment. 

Others, however, said they opposed nuclear power and believed energy could be generated more cheaply and cleanly through other means.

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