In the 1950s United Paper Mills wanted to buy a nuclear plant from the USSR
In the second half of the 1950s, a prominent Finnish businessman Juuso Walden wanted to acquire a nuclear power plant from the USSR for his timber company United Paper Mills, but the Soviet’s found a plausible excuse to refuse such an offer since they planned to cooperate only with the government departments of Finland.
The offer was mentioned, as per the declassified documents released by the Central archives of the nuclear industry Russia, in a letter sent in early January 1958 by the First Deputy Minister of Medium Machine Building of the USSR (in charge of the Soviet nuclear industry) Alexander Churin to Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko, Chairman of the State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for Foreign Economic Relations Mikhail Pervukhin and Minister of Foreign Trade Ivan Kabanov.
“The director of a large Finnish firm, the United Paper Mill, Walden recently informed our trade mission of his intention to purchase a nuclear power plant in the USSR for his enterprise and asked for proposals for the supply of a complete nuclear power plant,” Churin wrote. The steam produced in the reactor plant was supposed to first be sent to a steam turbine to generate electricity, and then used to heat paper machine calenders. A calender machine is used to improve the surface properties of paper and to control the caliper profile and is the last step in paper manufacturing.
Juuso Walden began a large-scale expansion of his United Paper Mills in the early 1950s, as he expected a significant increase in global paper demand. UPM’s most important element was the newsprint and magazine paper mill in Kaipola, Finland. In 1957 the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during a visit to Finland visited the UPM plant. By that time, the first nuclear power plant in the world was already operating in the USSR in Obninsk, which produced electricity on June 27, 1954, and the Soviet Union announced its plans for the development of nuclear energy. Perhaps, under the impression of this, Walden wanted to acquire a nuclear power plant from the USSR.
“The firm would like to put the power plant into operation in about two years. It also has in mind to buy uranium from us for a nuclear boiler (reactor – ed.),” Churin wrote in his letter.
The deputy minister reminded that the Soviet Union’s technical assistance to other countries in the use of atomic energy is carried out on the basis of bilateral intergovernmental agreements. As for Finland, Churin noted, the USSR, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had previously proposed to Finland to build an experimental atomic reactor, install a charged particle accelerator cyclotron and provide assistance in the use of radioactive isotopes in medicine, biology, industry, and agriculture. In essence, it was about a comprehensive proposal for the creation of a nuclear industry in the country. Nevertheless, the Finnish government was in no hurry to meet the Soviet side.
As per the letter, the Soviets will be obligated to supply 25 tons of uranium-235 if the commercial deal goes through, which was considered to be detrimental to its defense interests. A similar attempt to obtain uranium from the USSR for nuclear power plants was made by some Japanese firms, and also, in addition to governmental contracts.
In the letter, Churin suggested how to refuse the Finnish tycoon, “In our opinion, the owner of the Finnish company Walden should be answered in the appropriate form that due to the heavy workload of our industry, we are not able to (supply him with a nuclear power plant).”
In 1969, the USSR and Finland signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy and a year after a contract for the joint construction of two power units of the Loviisa nuclear power plant in southern Finland. This was the first international project of Soviet nuclear scientists in a capitalist country. The first nuclear power plant built abroad with the technical assistance of the USSR was the Rheinsberg nuclear power plant, built in the socialist GDR and started work in 1966.
The construction of the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant began in 1971, the first and second units were commissioned in 1977 and 1981. The plant owned by Fortum operates VVER-440/213 PWR reactors supplied by Atomenergoexport. This nuclear power plant is still one of the most efficient in the world, and the experience of creating its power units was useful to the Soviet Union, and then to Russia when developing projects for many domestic and foreign nuclear power plants. Currently, Russia and Finland are implementing a project to build the Hanhikivi-1 nuclear power plant on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, based on a modern Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactor with a capacity of 1200 MW.
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