Finland approves construction of nuclear plant by Russia

Finland`s Parliament on Friday gave the green-light to the construction of the country`s third nuclear plant by Russia`s Rosatom.

Helsinki: Finland`s Parliament on Friday gave the green-light to the construction of the country`s third nuclear plant by Russia`s Rosatom.

Lawmakers had to approve the deal for a second time, since the Russian national nuclear group was not on the list of prospective partners when the project to build a nuclear reactor at Pyhaejoki, on the country`s west coast, was first voted in 2010.

Altogether 115 parliamentarians voted in favour and 74 against the agreement on Friday.

Led by a company called Fennovoima, the project has gone through financial and political twists and turns.

The subsidiary Rosatom Overseas bought 34 percent of the company, a stake that was previously owned by Germany`s EON until 2012.

Several minor Finnish shareholders also threw in the towel along the way, forcing Fennovoima to launch an intense campaign to reach the 60-percent threshold of Finnish or European investors required by the government.

The project also caused the Green Party to leave the ruling coalition in September.

In addition, Fennovoima had to revise downwards its ambitions, reducing the expected power of the plant from 1,600 to 1,200 megawatts.

During the debate on Wednesday, the opponents of the project questioned both nuclear power in principle and the appropriateness of Rosatom`s presence in Finland.

Green Party leader Ville Niinistoe expressed concern, saying many Finns might be worried that the Finnish government was getting too close to Russia`s leadership in its energy policies.

"That is not in accordance with the European Union`s common foreign policy," he said.

Another Finnish nuclear project, a new-generation reactor in Olkiluoto (southwest Finland), has also faced multiple setbacks.

France`s Areva, one of the main partners in that project, announced in September that the reactor will begin producing electricity in 2018, nine years late.

The expected losses from delays amount to EUR 3.9 billion (USD 5.1 billion), according to Areva.

The supporters of the Pyhaejoki plant have appealed to pragmatic arguments. The government, for example, pointed at electricity prices, greenhouse gas emission goals and the image of Finland as a country open to foreign investment.

"The project will have a strong effect on employment and the economy in general," Industry Minister Jan Vapaavuori said.

Fennovoima expects to start producing electricity in Pyhaejoki in 2024.

Finland currently has two plants with two reactors each, which together provide nearly 30 percent of the country`s electricity.