Pekkarinen's comments on nuclear power take ministry and Fennovoima by surprise
Minister of Economic Affairs wants applications for nuclear plants in earlier than before
Officials at the Ministry for Employment and the Economy are surprised by statements made by Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen (Centre) calling for the rapid submission of applications for permits to build a sixth nuclear reactor.
Pekkarinen said in a television news broadcast that he would like to see applications submitted as soon as possible. Previously the ministry had indicated to all three possible applicants that there was no need to hurry before the early part of next year.
In the same broadcast, Timo Rajala, Chairman of the Board of Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), which is hoping to build a fourth reactor in Olkiluoto on Finland's west coast, said the company could submit its application to the ministry possibly already in May. TVO is currently building a third reactor at the Olkiluoto site, which already has two in operation. Finland's two other nuclear reactors are in Loviisa on the south coast.
TVO is capable of the expedited timetable, because it has already completed an environmental impact assessment for the location.
Such an assessment has also been made by Fortum, which could build a third reactor in Loviisa.
The only possible applicant not to have an environmental impact assessment ready is Fennovoima, which hopes to set up a new nuclear power plant in one of four coastal communities - Simo, Pyhäjoki, Kristiinankaupunki, or Ruotsinpyhtää.
Fennovoima was caught by surprise by Pekkarinen's statement, because the company has assumed that the previous schedule would hold. Fennovoima CEO Tapio Saarenpää said after two days of deliberation that the company's environmental assessments would be ready in the autumn, and that an application could be submitted in September.
The four-month gap between the applications of TVO and Fortum and that of Fennovoima would not have any significance for the processing of the applications.
The political goal has been to handle the new application during the present electoral term so that it would be debated by the current Parliament.
When the application reaches the ministry, it will be submitted to a number of interested parties for comment, and after that, an official security survey will be conducted, lasting about a year.
Under this schedule, the government could bring the application before Parliament in early 2010, which means that the matter could be handled during the spring session, about a year before the next Parliamentary elections.
Politicians will want to avoid delaying the debate until the autumn, lest the proximity of the elections overpoliticise the issue.
Pekkarinen's statement has been seen by some as an attempt to pull the rug out from under Fennovoima.
This is a somewhat questionable interpretation, as the prime movers of Fennovoima include the German electric utility E-on, as well as local Finnish electric utilities and industrial consumers of electricity, with close ties to Pekkarinen's Centre Party.
Observers will be looking closely at how many applications are submitted. Many suspect that Fortum might not want to put in its own application, as it may not be in its business interests to increase electricity production in Finland, as it might have a negative impact on prices of electricity.
Fortum owns 25 per cent of TVO.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Technology industry wants two more nuclear reactors (24.4.2008)
Further nuclear reactor construction delays could lead to electricity shortage (13.8.2007)
Call for radical electricity market overhaul and sixth nuclear reactor (4.10.2006)