Nuclear plant near Russian-Finnish border?

Publish date: November 26, 2001

Written by: Rashid Alimov

Finland is concerned over Russian Ministry’s for Nuclear Energy (Minatom) plans for building a nuclear power plant near the Finnish border. Minatom dreams to build a NPP in Finland.

Some days ago, Finnish Kainuun Sanomat daily reported, that Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom) is carrying out negotiations with the Finnish Centre for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (STUK) on building a new nuclear power plant near Tiiksa (in Russian spelled Tiksha), a village in the Muezersk district in Karelia, 60km from the Russian-Finnish border.

Kainun Sanomat quoted Hannu Koponen, the STUK director, as saying that if built, the new power plant would have the capacity of 640 to 1000 MW. For the first time, the idea of building a NPP near Tiiksa was considered in 1980s, but then its capacity was to be up to 6000 MW.

“Yes, there were some ideas to build a NPP in Tiiksa in the early 1990s, some research was carried out, but the plans were rejected at the same time,” the press service of the Karelian government said to Bellona Web, deeply surprised with the news.

Mr Koponen told Bellona Web that he might have been misquoted (an article from the Kainuun Sanomat was sent to wires in Russian by Rosbalt news agency). No negotiations for building a NPP in Karelia are carried out at present, and Mr Koponen does not think a NPP may be constructed there in the near future. But STUK keeps on watching the plans, connected with building of nuclear objects near the boarder. Mr Koponen said that, according to his information, the Russian Nuclear Regulatory had already issued a licence, to expand two nuclear plants in immediate vicinity to Finland. Minatom plans to build two additional reactor units at Kola NPP, and one reactor unit at Leningrad NPP in Sosnovy Bor.

At present, there are about 640 inhabitants in Tiiksa, a half of them are pensioners. The whole Muezersk district has no harmful industries: the majority of its population is engaged in logging.

The pulp and paper industry is the most developed industry in Karelia. Natural conditions of Karelia resemble the ones of the neighbouring Finland, where producing of energy from the wood, the by-product of the mentioned industry, has been promoted heavily during the last decade and has increased its volume for more than 70%. In 1999 wood fuels supplied 19,5 % of the Finnish energy consumption. In Karelia there are a lot of the same wood fuels. The alternative sources of energy seem to be much more preferable, than building a new nuclear giant.

Finnish Greenpeace campaigner, Harri Lammi, speaking on the plans to build new reactor units near the Finnish border told Bellona Web: “That concerns interest of the Finnish public a lot. We don’t understand, why Russia doesn’t use alternative sources of energy, which are safer? Why Russia should invest in the expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear plants and doesn’t think of energy efficiency, which would be the best?”

Will Minatom build NPP in Finland?

Though, it seems that such a reaction of the neighbours does not confuse Minatom. Quite the contrary, last week the director of Atomstroiexport, one of Minatom’s subdivisions, Victor Kozlov, said, Russia was going to participate in the tender for building a NPP in Finland, planned for the next year. In his opinion, Russia has quite good chance to win the contest.

The Atomstoiexport director bases his opinion on the fact that Russia proposed to Finland to build a plant with the same models of VVER reactors, as Minatom is building now in China.

According to the Atomstroiexport information, in addition to Russia, Germany, France, the UK, and Sweden will take the bid as well.

But Atomstroiexport is obviously too much in a hurry. Sami Wilkman, a MP of the Green Group in the Finnish parliament, says to Bellona Web that the application for building the fifth Finnish reactor has not been considered in the parliament yet, and will be evaluated not earlier than in Spring or Summer 2002. No building can start before that.

The Finnish Greenpeace campaigner Harri Lammi thinks, it is unlikely that the parliament will give green light for the nuclear power plant. “The application was considered in 1993, and it hadn’t passed. I don’t see any reason, why should it pass now,” he said, mentioning that the majority of the Finns object to the building.

Mr Lammi said, even if the parliamentary approval is granted, it will not mean the construction start of the new NPP. The potential investors – Fortum and TVO – have not evaluated yet the cost efficiency of the project. They are going to consider the question of investment only after a positive decision is in place from the government and the parliament.

Energy production in Finland

The share of the nuclear plants in the energy market in Finland has recently somewhat increased and now amounts to about 25%. The most part of the energy is produced by the hydroelectric power plants. Also, production of energy from the wood, the by-product of the pulp and paper industry has increased its volume over the last decade by more than 70%. In 1999, wood fuels supplied 19,5 % of the Finnish energy consumption. At the same time, Finland keeps on importing Russian natural gas.

The capacity of Olkiluoto nuclear plant has been recently boosted by 23%. The plant operates on two 660 MW Swedish boiling water reactors, commissioned in 1978 and 1980. It is now licensed to operate until 2018. Loviisa nuclear plant, built by the Soviet engineers, operates two VVER-440 reactors, has increased output by almost 100 MWe (11%).

Near the Finnish border two Russian plants – Kola NPP (four VVER-440) and Leningrad NPP are situated (four RBMK-1000). Reactors of Leningrad NPP are considered especially dangerous on account of their Chernobyl-like design characteristics. Different variants of building new reactor units are being considered now, among the projects are a new type MKER-1000 reactor, or two VVER-1500 reactors.

According to the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the last decade, Finland has allocated more than FM 800m for the transboundary cooperation programmes, pertaining to environmental protection, nuclear safety, forestry and agriculture.