Fennovoima – the nuclear power plant that should never have been ordered…

Fennovoima is a Finnish company that was created to plan, build and operate the 6th nuclear power plant in Finland.

Its history is so crazy that it is a wonder that it has ever received planning permission to start building the plant.

Between In 2007 and 2012, a consortium of big private Finnish companies and municipalities formed a consortium to build the plant with Germany’s E.ON as the main contractor, but E.ON pulled out, leaving the shareholders desperate for a new contractor.

Finland depends heavily on Russia for a huge part of its energy, oil and gas requirements and this new project was meant to reduce the level in relative terms by working with a non-Russian contractor.

The 2 other main alternative contractors were having some small problems – Areva was already really late in delivering the new TVO nuclear plant and the Japanese had seen the destruction of the Fukushima reactors in 2011. They were disqualified for bidding.

There was only one possible and available supplier left, and old habits die hard – Russia stepped forward with their Rosatom plant. Politicians like Minister Rehn and the Prime Minister fell over themselves to explain the 180 degree change in direction with alternative truths. (Mr.Trump was not the inventor of this manner of talking). Months of awkward explanation and secret negotiations followed with the general public left bewildered.

Scandal after scandal emerged from these negotiations involving half truths and blatant lies because the government had demanded that the company must be owned outright by a majority of Finnish based companies, and not companies secretly owned or controlled by the Russians, which was part of the Russian toolkit in the negotiations.

In 2012, O.EN had sold its shareholding and along with some others so domestic ownership was too low. Fortum, the state-owned energy company, offered to become a shareholder but only on condition that they could buy into a hydro-electric power plant in Russia. Russia refused and Fortum was “forced” by our government, and perhaps for commercial reasons in connection with their plans in Russia, to recapitulate and buy Fennovoima shares.

The final result is that Rosatom now owns 34% of the company and is the main contractor and financier of the project. So much for reducing energy dependence on Russia…

The last years have seen more serious problems relating to safety regulations at the construction site, as well as shareholder problems – the City of Helsinki now wants to leave the consortium, and that may encourage others to seek a way out.

The remaining shareholders, with the exception of Fortum, are a crowd of small public and private companies who have no nuclear plant project experience. They are just on the hook for cash! Not a good position to be in when the project is so big and dangerously risky.

Construction work has started and delays abound, in a world where sanctions against Russia have only made this project more challenging in the eyes of the world… Do not expect that this will have a happy ending.

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