The fate of the nuclear power plant project of Fennovoima was on the agenda as Olli Rehn (Centre), the Minister of Economic Affairs, visited Moscow on Thursday.

Rehn revealed that he and Arkady Dvorkovich, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, discussed the ongoing negotiations between Fortum, Gazprom and Rosatom over a joint hydro-power venture that Fortum has set as a condition for its participation in Fennovoima. Russia is according to Rehn “very committed” to the nuclear power plant project.

“Fortum's negotiations with Gazprom and Rosatom are still ongoing,” Rehn told after the meeting. “We'll find out if any progress has been made in the days to come.”

Rehn conceded that the fate of the project lies in the hands of Fortum. He warned in his blog as recently as last autumn that “Finland is at risk of becoming an outdoor museum of failed nuclear projects”.

The possible participation of Fortum, he said, does change the situation.

Rehn also told Dvorkovich that he is scheduled to present the licence application of Fennovoima to the Government for consideration on 6 August.

The project is important for Rosatom as the state-owned Russian nuclear power plant operator holds one-third of the shares in Fennovoima. Finnish authorities have prescribed, however, that a minimum of 60 per cent of shares in the nuclear power consortium must be held by parties domiciled within the European Union or the European Economic Area (EEA).

The ownership requirement has yet to be fulfilled.

All eyes are yet again on Fortum after Rehn turned down a proposed investment in Fennovoima by Croatia's Migrit Solarna Energija. Could the energy utility be willing to invest in Fennovoima?

Fortum has declared that its investment is contingent on hydro assets in North-west Russia: Fortum and Rosatom are under a letter of intent set to buy Gazprom out of the St. Petersburg-based regional power company TGK-1. However, the negotiations have dragged on due to the apparent reluctance of Gazprom to hand over the assets for free.

With Rosatom and Gazprom seemingly at loggerheads, Fortum is unlikely to be devastated if the nuclear power plant project fell through.

The negotiations have been recently hindered by Rosneft, a state-owned Russian oil company. RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday that the deputy board chairperson at Rosneft, Larisa Kalanda, has submitted a letter to the Russian Ministry of Energy, demanding that Gazprom be divided and its export gas pipeline monopoly be broken.

Dvorkovich dashed cold water on the demands on Thursday.

“My understanding has not changed, nor has that of the central administration,” he told Interfax. “We've previously decided that the current structure of Gazprom will be maintained while taking into account the need to take steps to enhance the financial transparency of the distribution of duties within Gazprom.”

Gazprom appears for the present to be on the back foot, with Rosneft on the offensive and Rosatom throwing a spanner in the works.

Rosneft is nevertheless the underdog in this particular battle. Its loan request to the National Welfare Fund was turned down last year after the flow of Western capital into Russia slowed. Rosatom, in turn, was granted a loan of 2.4 billion euros to enable it to invest in the nuclear power plant project in Pyhäjoki.

Igor Sechin, the board chairperson at Rosneft and a former Grey Eminence of Kremlin, then orchestrated a loan package from Russian banks that has been considered the main culprit for the rouble's plunge last December.

Pekka Hakala – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT