Russia, Finland agree on more cooperation

26 February 2014

Russia and Finland have signed a new intergovernmental agreement on nuclear energy cooperation - a prerequisite for Russia to supply a reactor unit for Fennovoima's Hanhikivi project.

The agreement was signed in Helsinki yesterday by Finnish economy minister Jan Vapaavuori and head of Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom Sergey Kiriyenko.

Finland-Russia February 2014 - 250 (TEM)
Vapaavuori and Kiriyenko at the signing ceremony (Image: TEM)

Through the agreement, Finland and Russia will cooperate in areas including nuclear energy research, reactors and their use in energy production, nuclear safety, radiation protection and environmental protection.

A key feature of the new agreement is that is resolves issues related to liability for damages from nuclear accidents. Finland is party to the OECD-sponsored Paris Convention on nuclear liability, while Russia adheres to the IAEA-sponsored Vienna Convention. The new accord stipulates that both international treaties are reciprocally applicable between Finland and Russia. Finland's Ministry of Employment and the Economy (TEM) noted, "In practice, therefore, the agreement thus substitutes for the Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention, which Russia has not ratified."

The ministry said that the previous cooperation agreement with Russia expired in 2004 and that nuclear collaboration between the two countries since then "has taken place without a legal treaty framework."

Under earlier cooperation between the two countries, two VVER-440 units were constructed at Fortum's Loviisa plant in southern Finland. These were, however, supplied with Western containment and control systems.

Vapaavuori commented, "The need for an agreement was long overdue. The agreement will benefit the Finnish industry. This agreement is of great importance and relevance to the Fennovoima project to construct the Hanhikivi nuclear power plant."

Hanhikivi decision imminent

Fennovoima signed the plant supply contract for Hanhikivi with Rusatom Overseas - Rosatom's subsidiary concerned with exports of nuclear power plants - in December 2013. Rosatom has offered to build a plant using a Gidropress-designed AES-2006 VVER that would produce 1200 MWe. Rosatom has agreed to take a stake of 34% in the project, the major share previously held by Germany's EOn, and support the project by arranging debt finance for the plant's construction.

In November, 46 of Fennovoima's 60 shareholders agreed to continue with the project, each taking power from the plant at cost price in proportion to their ownership. Fennovoima said it would make the final investment decision by the end of this month when the stakes to be held by each of the project shareholders should be announced.

Some of those shareholders have already indicated their intention to withdraw or change their stakes in the project. Finnish mining company Talvivaara has said that while it supports the Fennovoima project, it is not yet ready to commit to it financially. However, steel company Outokumpu has announced plans to increase its stake in the project to 12.5%.

Rosatom has also reportedly said it wants to increase its stake in the project, from 34% to 49%. "We are ready to increase our stake, but we have not received any offers yet," Kiriyenko was cited as saying by Reuters.

A revised environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its proposed plant, based on the AES-2006, was recently submitted to TEM. Although the Finnish government issued a decision-in-principle in favour of a new plant there in 2010, it was based on Fennovoima's initial plans for an 1800 MWe plant using either an Areva EPR or Toshiba ABWR. A final ministerial statement is scheduled to issued in June.

Assuming a positive investment decision, it will apply for construction permits by mid-2015. According to the target schedule, the plant will start producing electricity in 2024.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News