April 26, 2016 / 2:37 PM / a year ago

Protesters break into Finnish-Russian nuclear site

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Anti-nuclear protesters broke in to a construction site on Tuesday for a nuclear reactor to be supplied by Russia’s state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom, choosing the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster for their demonstration.

Police estimated that close to 50 protesters gathered near the Fennovoima site in northern Finland and around 40 were detained. One group broke in to the site while others lay down on the road leading to the site’s entrance, police said.

Fennovoima’s Heli Haikola said around 10 protesters entered the site but work was able to continue.

“We want to remind people that the Chernobyl plant was built by Rosatom’s predecessor. I wouldn’t do business with anyone with that kind of history,” Venla Simonen from the Stop Fennovoima protest group told Reuters by telephone.

Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine, caused by a botched safety test in the fourth reactor of the atomic plant that sent clouds of nuclear material across much of Europe.

Rosatom was the successor to the Soviet nuclear industry and builds nuclear plants in Russia and around the world. Its website cites safety as the highest priority in its work.

The Chernobyl disaster increased radiation levels in Finland, putting nuclear Finnish plant projects on ice for a decade.

This latest project has raised concerns and resistance from many Finns as the plant is set to forge deeper energy ties between EU state Finland and its former ruler Russia despite East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis.

Rosatom has a 34 percent stake in the 7 billion euro ($7.9 billion) project. It will supply the reactor and also handle the project’s financing.

Fennovoima struggled to find local investors to fulfill an ownership condition set by the Finnish government, but utility Fortum last year signed up in a surprise move, prompting questions of political pressure from both countries involved.

Fennovoima’s proposed 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactor would be Finland’s sixth nuclear plant. It is due to start operation in 2024.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Alison Williams

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