The never-ending saga of Finland’s Olkiluoto nuclear plant

Energy company Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) announced on Friday (4 September) that regular electricity production from its Olkiluoto nuclear plant – which is currently under construction – will not start in March 2021 as planned, but a year later, in February 2022.

The construction has been plagued with a long list of problems, including issues with the sea water system equipment, while cracks were also found in the pressurizer safety valves. Faulty components in emergency diesel generators and the vibration in the pressurizer surge line, were also found.

However, some 1,500 nuclear professionals are said to be finalizing the project.

Back in 2005, when construction began, Finland was the first western European country in fifteen years to have ordered a nuclear reactor.

However, the country’s fifth plant was supposed to be ready by 2010 and cost €3 billion.

But now that the project has been delayed by over a decade and costs have surged to about €11 billion, according to latest estimates. Stephen Thomas, a professor at the University of Greenwich Business School commented, saying that the case of Olkiluoto 3 was “an example of all that can go wrong in economic terms with new reactors”.

The project which started as a joint venture between French company Areva and German conglomerate Siemens has been in difficulty since the start..

In 2009, Siemens left the venture and became a subcontractor leaving Areva as the main contractor. According to TVO, the current Areva-Siemens consortium is “committed to ensure the adequacy of the funding reserved to finalise the OL3 EPR project, as well as all warranty periods.”

In an interview with tabloid Iltalehti on Friday (4 September), the director of the OL3 project at TVO, Jouni Silvennoinen said he did not want to guess the total costs and losses. When asked to comment about the venture looking like a “complete failure”, Silvennoinen  replied by saying: “We do not comment.”

If the plant ever sees the light of day, it will produce around 30% of Finland’s electricity, which would make it the country’s “largest single climate action”.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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