Loviisa City Council rejects sale of property to E.ON
Storm of public protest over plot of land for possible sixth nuclear reactor
The Loviisa City Council decided on Wednesday to reject the sale of a property to German energy company E.ON for a nuclear power station. In mid-April, the City Board had already given the deal initial approval, proposing that a 112-hectare plot of land would be sold to E.ON for EUR 6.5 million. Nevertheless, 16 councillors opposed the deal, outnumbering the 11 others who were in favour.
The German energy giant was seeking to buy a seafront plot of land from the City of Loviisa right next to the island of Hästholmen, where the Finnish energy company Fortum already has two nuclear reactors. E.ON has been waiting for an opportunity to build Finland’s sixth nuclear reactor on the site, provided that Parliamentary approval is granted.
After the rejection of the planned deal, Matti Manninen, the managing director of E.ON Suomi, said that he would like to evaluate the situation before drawing any conclusions.
In Loviisa, the City Council’s decision was preceded by a furore lasting two weeks. Citizens particularly resented the fact that the nearby village of Valko would remain inside the plant’s safety zone, were E.ON to be eventually granted permission to erect a nuclear power plant on the site.
According to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority regulations, a five-kilometre safety zone has to be set up around nuclear power facilities, and only two hundred people can permanently reside inside the zone. If the new power plant were built as planned, the number of residents remaining inside the safety zone would be almost ten times this many.
Furthermore, the citizens were irritated by the secretiveness of the whole undertaking. As Valko resident Sonja Ilvetsalo-Koskinen said, it is quite another matter, whether a property is sold to one of the residents or to Matti Manninen from the world’s largest private energy giant.
In Loviisa city manager Olavi Kaleva’s opinion, the preparations of the deal progressed in a normal way, and it is only natural that the decisions on deals like this are not made at the local market place.
The planned sale of the property nevertheless encouraged people out to oppose the proposed deal. Moreover, a petition against the deal gathered almost 1,200 signatures over the course of a few days.
In the afternoon, prior to the City Council meeting, some 300 people took part in a demonstration against the project, and during the meeting, the conference room was standing-room-only full.
The councillors opposing the deal were concerned about the image of the city, and the planned power station’s effects on population safety and environment, while those in favour thought of employment and tax revenues.
"What makes the situation even worse is the fact that the city could end up being a nuclear waste dump some time in the future", commented Councillor Jaana Visavuori-Terävä (Swedish People’s Party).
Present at the meeting, MP Heidi Hautala (Greens) expressed her contentment at the decision, saying that it would have been very difficult to cancel the deal with E.ON if the contract had been signed. Hautala regarded the decision as a victory for democracy.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Village of Valko in Loviisa fears E.ON´s nuclear facility will cripple area (3.5.2007)
German energy giant wants to build nuclear facility in Finland (18.4.2007)