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Police, protesters clash at Fennovoima nuclear construction site

Police faced off against protesters at the construction site of the proposed Fennovoima nuclear plant in Pyhäjoki in western Finland Tuesday. Members of the Stop Fennovoima group said they wanted to halt work on the plant site, but Fennovoima said that operations continued as usual. The protest coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Ydinvoiman vastustajat osoittamassa tiistaina mieltään Pyhäjoella.
Some activists were able to penetrate into the construction site. Image: Kati Jurkko / Yle

An anti-nuclear power demonstration became a heated confrontation between police and protesters bent on halting work on Fennovoima’s nuclear power facility in Pyhäjoki on Finland’s west coast.

The Pyhäjoki nuclear plant has faced strong opposed in Finland and northern Sweden, where non-governmental groups as well as government officials and local politicians have voiced concerns over nuclear safety as well as potential harm to Northern Sweden's nature and fish stocks.

According to police some 40 people participated in the protest action, which was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine 30 years ago.

The Stop Fennovoima group said that it has organised a week of activities around the anniversary under the banner name Reclaim the Cape.

According to Yle, a few of the activists managed to scale the fence into the construction site managed by the Fennovoima consortium, which has commissioned the plant from the Russian state-owned contractor Rosatom.

Police however detained the interlopers and took them away for questioning. Stop Fennovoima said that nine people had been detained. Fennovoima said that work on the site continued without any disruptions.

Yle reporter: Police used pepper spray

Yle’s reporter on the scene, Hanna Hantula, said that police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.  However Chief Inspector Veijo Alavaikko of the Raahe police department said he doubted that police would have used OC gas.

Stop Fennovoima issued a press release Tuesday afternoon claiming to have succeeded in shutting down work on the site. The group said that activists has had been able to commandeer heavy equipment and Destia work barracks.

Chief Inspector Alavaikko also questioned that claim.

"There is no information that work had been stopped," he remarked.

Protesters detained by police

He did confirm that some activists had been able to climb over a fence into the work site. He said that they had been taken to the Raahe police station. The police officer did not confirm claims by the activists that four police dog patrols had visited an activist camp site on Monday evening.

Yle’s Oulu office also reported that Border Guard helicopters had been circling the area above the construction site.

Fennovoima confirmed that some activists had entered the work site, but said work had not been interrupted.

Regional Communications Director Heli Haikola said that police and security guards had been able to ensure that activists did not disrupt activities at the facility. She described the situation as regrettable.

"We understand that nuclear power is a divisive issue and of course demonstrations are allowed. However it’s unfortunate that people intrude on a construction site in the midst of heavy machinery and create a hazardous situation," she added.

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