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Finnish utility says Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant faces further delays

12 February 2013

Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) said that, based on recent progress reports from the Areva-Siemens consortium constructing the plant, "it is preparing for the possibility that the start of the regular electricity production of Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant unit may be postponed until 2016." Last year it said that it would be delayed beyond 2014.

An artist's impression of the completed Oikiluoto 3 plant
An artist's impression of the completed Oikiluoto 3 plant

Construction of Olkiluoto 3 started in May 2005, with completion originally scheduled for 2009. However, the project has suffered several setbacks. TVO announced in December 2011 that it anticipated the 1600 MWe Areva-designed EPR reactor would begin commercial operation in August 2014, some five years later than originally planned. 

In July 2012, the company declared that the plant unit "will not be ready for regular electricity production in 2014." Noting that Areva-Siemens are constructing the plant under a fixed-price turnkey contract and are therefore responsible for the time schedule of the project, it requested the supplier provide an updated schedule and completion date.

TVO's  senior vice president, Jouni Silvennoinen, said in a statement: "We have not yet received an adequate schedule update." He added, "Additionally, the instrumentation and control (I&C) design has not proceeded as planned, and therefore the plant completion may be further delayed." 

TVO said that although it "is not pleased with the situation and repeated challenges with the project scheduling," work is proceeding at the unit. The civil construction works of Olkiluoto 3 have mainly been completed and the major components of the nuclear island - such as the reactor pressure vessel, pressuriser and steam generators - have all been installed. Welding work of the primary coolant circuit piping has also been completed. TVO noted that some 75% of the installation works have now been completed.

Areva responded to TVO's claims by saying, "Over the course of the past year, the consortium has asked for significantly more active cooperation from TVO in order to obtain the final approval of the detailed I&C architecture." It added, "The Areva-Siemens consortium regrets that TVO continues to not fulfil its obligations to allow for the project to advance properly."

Areva-Siemens filed a request for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce in December 2008 concerning the delay of Olkiluoto and the related costs. Its latest monetary claim, including indirect items and interest, is some €1.9 billion ($2.3 billion). TVO has made a counterclaim which currently amounts to €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion).

TVO's announcement of a further potential delay in the Olkiluoto 3 project comes just days after the Finnish government published an updated strategy for meeting its energy and climate change targets.

In it, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy notes that Finland is still not self-sufficient in electricity generation and is heavily dependent on electricity imports during the winter. "This situation will persist until the point when the Olkiluoto 3 plant unit starts," it noted.

However, the ministry said that the country would not be fully self-sufficient in electricity production until the 2020s when both the planned fourth unit at Olkiluoto and Fennovoima's planned plant are in operation and generation from renewable sources has increased.

In early February, TVO said it had received bids from five groups to build the Olkiluoto 4 nuclear power plant.

The supplier candidates for the OL4 reactor island are Areva with another EPR, GE Hitachi with an ESBWR, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power with an APR1400, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with an APWR and Toshiba with an ABWR.

TVO said that the project will now move on to the ‘bid evaluation and negotiations phase.’ The selection of a plant supplier based on a comprehensive technical and economic review, it said.

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