14 years late, Finland’s new reactor, Olkiluoto 3, starts generating power

The Olkiluoto nuclear plant is located on Finland’s west coast, about 100km northwest of Helsink (TVO)
The 1.6GW Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear reactor began producing electricity yesterday, 18 years after the project broke ground and €8bn over its original €3bn budget.

OL3 is the largest nuclear reactor in Europe. Its owner, Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), said the unit would be able to supply around 14% of Finland’s electricity demand, with Olkiluoto station, now with three reactors, supplying 30%.

Marjo Mustonen, TVO’s senior vice president for electricity production, commented: “This is a historical day, the benefits that we promised OL3 would bring to the Finnish society are realised. I am proud of all the nuclear professionals involved in the project.”

TVO added that the OL3 project employed up to 4,500 workers from more than 80 countries. The nuclear test production phase comprised 3,300 tests with more than 9,000 test reports collated. The project had a significant impact on regional economy, particularly in the Satakunta region.

The 1.6GW unit was the first example of Framatome’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), a third-generation pressurised water design. Construction was undertaken by a consortium made up of French engineer Areva and Germany’s Siemens.

Work began in August 2005, and it was originally due to be completed in 2009.

The project was repeatedly delayed. In 2010, Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority listed the causes as:

  • An overly ambitious schedule, given that the reactor was first of its kind;
  • The inadequate completion of design and engineering work prior to start of construction;
  • A shortage of experienced designers;
  • A lack of experience of parties in managing a large construction project;
  • Worldwide shortage of qualified equipment manufacturers.

OL3 first supplied electricity to Finland’s grid in March last year and was expected at the time to begin regular output four months later, but instead suffered a string of breakdowns and outages.

These included foreign material, detached from the steam guide plates, which found its way into the turbine’s steam reheater in May.

Finland now has five nuclear reactors, three in Olkiluoto and two in Loviisa.

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