Construction workers in an administrative building at the site of Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Plant, a power plant built in Pyhäjoki, North Ostrobothnia, by Fennovoima, on 3 November 2021. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT of Fennovoima in Pyhäjoki, Finland, is turning out to be a grave mistake, according to two professors interviewed by YLE.

The professors estimated that granting a building permit to the nuclear power plant, which is to house a 1,200-megawatt reactor supplied by Russia’s Rosatom, would send the wrong message in the prevailing circumstances. Russia, in turn, could interpret the permit as an indication that its actions have no consequences.

Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear energy company that is also responsible for the development and production of nuclear munitions, is not only the plant supplier, but also the largest individual stakeholder of the project through its Finnish subsidiary, RAOS Voima.

About two-thirds of the project is owned by Voimaosakeyhtiö SF, a consortium owned by energy and industrial companies in Finland.

“If we invest in Russian nuclear power through the current structure of Fennovoima, we’d also be directly supporting nuclear weapons production in Russia and, as a result, the geopolitical aims of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, a professor of Russian environmental studies at the University of Helsinki, stated to YLE.

“Today, it’d unfortunately mean creating a largely violence-based division into spheres of influence.”

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Kari Liuhto, a professor of international business at the University of Turku, estimated that the energy project entails a number of risks.

“The Fennovoima project will surely end up on the Finnish government’s table by the end of this year. If Russia strikes in Ukraine, I think the project should be suspended,” he stated to the public broadcasting company.

The project has been delayed a number of times, most recently due to difficulties in aligning documentation related to the design and permits with Finnish standards. YLE in January reported that the project is unlikely to receive a building permit, despite the fact that hundreds of millions of euros has already been poured into preparations at the proposed plant site, before September.

The project is presently expected to cost 7–7.5 billion euros.

The Ministry of Defence at the end of last year called for an analysis of the risks associated with the project, referring specifically to geopolitical risks and the security political role of Rosatom.

YLE on Monday asked about the project also from three deputy chairpersons of Finnish parties. Atte Harjanne of the Greens, Matias Mäkynen of the Social Democrats and Pia Kauma of the National Coalition all underlined that the project should be subjected to a critical evaluation.

“The situation and today’s news further question the rationale of the project. That’s good to recognise,” Harjanne said on YLE’s A-Studio.

The geopolitical risks linked to the project, he argued, were known but ignored when the government granted a decision in principle to the project in 2014.

Kauma viewed that the risks should be evaluated from a number of viewpoints, as has been proposed by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo). She also estimated that, in light of the importance of the project, it could be worthwhile to explore whether another supplier could be found to replace Rosatom.

“If you pull out, you’ll have to analyse if there are western companies with which you could set up a new kind of nuclear power project on this foundation.”

Also Mäkynen viewed that changing the supplier is a possibility.

“The plant supplier has already changed once during the project. I suppose it tells that it could change a second time. But this is already pretty far along. The decision in principle is a very binding decision by the Parliament,” he said to YLE.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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