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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Finland opts for new nuclear reactor
Anti-nuclear protesters
Nuclear energy sparks high emotions across Western Europe
Finland has approved the construction of a fifth nuclear reactor, bucking a trend in Western Europe where some countries are moving to phase out the use of atomic power.

The country's parliament narrowly passed the bill, with 107 in favour and 92 against.

In the face of bitter opposition from environmentalists, advocates of the project argued that it would significantly cut Finnish dependence on Russia, which currently supplies 70% of energy needs.

They also pointed out that it would boost Finland's efforts to meet its greenhouse gas targets.

Resource-poor

The reactor will be the first in Western Europe since 1991, when the French authorised the construction of a new one, and the first in Finland in three decades.

Chernobyl nuclear plant
The Finnish project was shelved after Chernobyl
European governments have moved away from nuclear power since the deadly 1986 Chernobyl disaster, seeking alternative energy sources such as hydro-electric power or natural gas.

Finland has natural resources including wind power, hydro-electricity, peat and wood. But it has been mulling the construction of a fifth plant for nearly 20 years.

An initial plan was put forward in the 1980s, but was put on ice after Chernobyl. The Finnish Parliament then voted against the whole project in 1993.

Finland currently has four nuclear reactors at two plants, and experts say their safety standards are among the highest in the world.

Security measures around the plants were tightened following the 11 September attacks in the US.

Nuclear power producer Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO), which runs two of four nuclear plants in Finland, is expected to spend up to 2.5 billion euros ($2.30 billion) to build the reactor.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | Europe
16 Jan 02 | Europe
19 Oct 01 | Scotland
17 Oct 01 | Business
14 Jan 02 | Country profiles
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