More clarity for Fennovoima

15 February 2013

The co-operative company that is the majority shareholder in Fennovoima has purchased EOn's 34% stake to assume full control. The project is moving forward and recently received advice from government on waste disposal.

The sole shareholder of Fennovoima is now Voimaosakeyhtiö SF, a co-operative of 67 firms including municipal utilities and various other companies from trade and industry. Their joint intention is to build a large reactor at Hanhikivi in Pyhäjoki municipality on Finland's west coast to supply their electricity needs at cost - because they "had until now been left outside of the ownership of reasonably priced nuclear energy."

The company solicited bids for reactor designs a year ago and said today it plans to pick one before the end of 2013. It is choosing between an Areva EPR with a steam turbine from either Alstom or Siemens and an ABWR plant completely supplied by Toshiba.

Fennovoima would be responsible for a range of civil construction including site preparation, excavation and off-shore construction. This week it applied for permits to cover the construction of a sea route, a harbour, cooling water intakes and outlets, as well as permission to discharge cooling water.

Two repositories? No problems

An outstanding question for Fennovoima was the ultimate destination of its reactor fuel after use. Finland's other two nuclear utilities, Fortum and Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), jointly own a third company, Posiva, with the remit to develop a shared waste disposal site. Last month it applied to government to do this by expanding the Onkalo rock laboratory near to TVO's power plant, Olkiluoto. The facility could begin disposal in 2020.

One approach for Fennovoima would be for it to join Posiva, which would then expand plans for Onkalo. However, there was no agreement on this due to apparent limits to expansion and Fennovoima was left at risk of failing to present an available disposal route as required for a construction licence.

The government ordered a panel investigation, which simplified matters with its report in January: Considering a range of cooperation and siting options it concluded the differences were negligible in terms of environmental impact as well as economics as long as Posiva's knowledge was employed. The key issue, as with radioactive waste disposal worldwide, would be social acceptability.

It said that previous reports have shown "the environmental impacts involved in final disposal are minor." Adding that when implemented well, "the difference in costs between the options would be insignificant compared to the life cycle costs of nuclear power."

Making Onkalo bigger to accommodate waste from Hanhikivi would cost about €200 million ($267 million), whereas building a separate facility would cost in the range €900 million to €1 billion ($1.2 billion to $1.3 billion). The upper end of the price estimate applies to scenarios where Fennovoima is not able to employ the knowledge, skills and technology already built up by Posiva over 30 years. Funding to meet the costs would be built up during 60 years of plant operation, making this a minor factor in the plant's economics.

Having confirmed the viability of different approaches, subject to licensing and approvals by local and national government, the report recommended that "the most expedient and cost-efficient" option would be the expansion of plans for Onkalo.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News