Finland may allow $2.9 bln nuclear waste fund to invest in stocks

Finland's 2.6 billion euro ($2.90 billion) Nuclear Waste Management Fund could be allowed to invest in stocks and other higher risk assets in order to boost returns, the country's ministry of economic affairs and employment said on Monday.

By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

OSLO, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Finland's 2.6 billion euro ($2.90 billion) Nuclear Waste Management Fund could be allowed to invest in stocks and other higher risk assets in order to boost returns, the country's ministry of economic affairs and employment said on Monday.

Built from annual payments by operators of nuclear plants, the fund guarantees that nuclear waste management can be arranged under all circumstances.

A working group tasked with assessing the investment activities concluded in a report that it could be broadened from its current restriction of only lending to the state and to energy suppliers.

The ministry will now start drafting proposals and initiate discussions to amend existing regulations.

"Interest rates are extremely low, it is not the best way to carry on. We examine different ways of making investments, in stocks or funds. Most likely we are going ahead to change the legislation," ministry adviser Anja Liukko told Reuters.

The fund has grown steadily during its 35 years in operation, with a further increase expected following the commissioning of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor in 2020.

"It is the working group's opinion that investment activity can be generated by creating better opportunities for improved long-term fund performance," the ministry said in a statement.

However, moderate risk-taking and ensuring that there are, at all times, enough assets available to cover the costs of nuclear waste, should remain the leading principle, it added.

The legislative process will likely be completed by the end of 2021.

"There seems to be a consensus (in the government) that this is the way to move on," Liukko said.

($1 = 0.8973 euros)

(Editing by Terje Solsvik, editing by Louise Heavens)

((lefteris.karagiannopoulos@thomsonreuters.com; +47 23316519; Reuters Messaging: lefteris.karagiannopoulos.thomsonreuters@reuters.net))

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