It has been said often on the Nuclear Reaction blog but bears repeating: the nuclear industry really can’t be trusted.
A good case in point is the bizarre antics in Finland right now. On June 30th, Fennovoima, a Finnish utility, submitted an application to the government to build a nuclear plant. One of the utility’s partners is Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation.
To apply for a license, the government requires the project to be 60% owned by companies from the European Union or the European Trade Association. The 60% criterion was put in place by the Finnish government in order to control Russian influence over the country’s energy policy. And that means that Rosatom can’t be the biggest player in this game.
But, a strange thing happened on the filing deadline of June 30. Out of the blue, a new financing partner was found so that the project could meet the 60% rule and could go ahead. At least, that’s the claim.
Greenpeace Nordic decided to take a closer look at this strangely fortuitous development for Rosatom’s Finnish nuclear project. We uncovered what appears to be quite a different story, from a serendipitous turn of events in the form of a new nuclear investment partner.
Instead of a viable European company with a track record that would suggest it is a credible business partner, Greenpeace found a Croatian company, Migrit Solarna Energija, that operates out of an apartment block in Zagreb. It has no employees, capital stock of only 26,000 Euros, and absolutely no income in 2012-2013. And yet, this company is supposedly going to be able to contribute 150 million Euros to the project?
More importantly, Greenpeace found what appear to be strong ties between this tiny company holed up in an apartment complex, and Russia’s nuclear giant, Rosatom. The company, established by Russian Mikhail Zhukov, is closely linked to Titan enterprises. Migrit Solarna Energija and Titan enterprises share an office and a fax number. The owners of Migrit Solarna Energija are related to Titan Energija’s director and a businessman with a background with Inteco. This raises the concern that this company, Migrit Solarna Energija, a subsidiary of Migrit Energija, does not fulfill the 60% criterion for the project to move forward.
There’s more. Mikhail Zhukov heads up Inteco, which used to be owned by the richest woman in Russia, Yelena Baturina. She happens to be married to Yuri Lužkov, the former mayor of Moscow. Baturina sold Inteco to 50% state-owned Sberbank and to billionaire Mihail Shishkanov. Sberbank is an essential financier of Rosatom.
Given these unsettling findings, Greenpeace warned the Finnish government to carefully examine the license application by Fennovoima to ensure it meets ownership criteria and is in best interests of the country. But the concerns are bigger than Finland. As our Finnish program manager, Sini Harkki, said: “This game that Fennovoima and Rosatom appear to be playing should be a concern to any country that is in discussions with Rosatom regarding building nuclear reactors. If the state corporation is ready to play a game with something as simple as ownership rules, what else will it play games with in building a dangerous reactor?”
Rosatom is actively pursuing nuclear contracts around the world. And this warning is something many other countries should heed. In October 2014, Greenpeace released a report on the problems with Rosatom and the Russian nuclear industry. This ownership game appears to be consistent with the kinds of problems that plague Rosatom and should be required reading for politicians in any country thinking of cutting a deal with Rosatom.
Fennovoima and Rosatom looked for years for investors. Yet it only took a few days to expose what appears to be a hoax, and a front for Russian capital.
That’s not the end of nuclear problems in Finland. The country is suffering through a protracted mess with Areva, the French nuclear company, over the building the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant. The project is years late and billions over budget with no end to the problems in sight.
With lessons like those from Rosatom and Areva’s Finnish nuclear projects, it is no wonder that in Finland the public majority is against nuclear. In spite of the people’s will, Finland’s current energy strategy relies on nuclear. But with ample renewable resources to be developed and the usual mess with nuclear projects, it is time to reconsider that strategy, listen to the will of the Finnish citizens, and move into the nuclear-free clean-energy future.
Brian Blomme is a Communications Manager with Greenpeace International.
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