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The dark history of OL3 suppliers

The main suppliers of Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant in Finland share a history of price fixing.

Finland has made a unique decision to build yet another nuclear power plant to generate the energy it needs while other countries are striving to get rid of them. A business venture between Siemens and Areva is in the process of delivering the country's 5th nuclear power plant to Olkiluoto, near Pori.

AREVA NP (former Framatome) signed a contract with the Finnish power company TVO for the turnkey construction of the Olkiluoto 3, or OL3, reactor back in 2003. Siemens has a 34 percent stake in AREVA NP while Areva has a 66 percent stake.

In January 2007, the European Commission imposed a record-breaking fine on Siemens, Areva and eight other companies for a switchgear cartel. The total fine was 751 million euros, out of which Siemens' share was over 418 million euros – the biggest penalty ever imposed for a single offence by the European Union.

The cartel, which also included companies such as Alstom, Hitachi and the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, operated for at least 16 years, until the investigation started in 2004.

"Between 1988 and 2004, the companies rigged bids for procurement contracts, fixed prices, allocated projects to each other, shared markets and exchanged commercially important and confidential information," the Commission was quoted as saying in a Deutche Welle article.

Sarkozy's target a French nuclear giant

In July 2007, the German weekly Wirtschaftswoche announced the French president Nicolas Sarkozy's wish to acquire Siemens' share of AREVA NP and to create a fusion between Areva, the energy giant Alstom and the building company Bouygues. This would result in a major French actor in the nuclear sector.

Bouygues, with a history of anti-union activities, is already in charge of constructing the reactor building at OL3, the biggest individual building project at the site.

Work at the Olkiluoto site has been delayed on many occasions due to defects in work quality. The completion date for the project has been postponed till 2011 from the original 2009.