Finland EPR Nuclear Reactor Construction Now Lags Almost a Decade Behind Original Schedule

The European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) under construction in Finland may not start operating until late 2018—putting the project nearly 10 years behind its initial schedule. 

Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) said in a statement on Sept. 1 that the AREVA-Siemens consortium building Olkiluoto 3 had updated its schedule. The schedule review, which “has been going on for some time,” is still a “work-in-progress,” noted the company.

“However, it is hard for us to accept such a late start-up forecast given by the supplier because the completion degree is high, the completed works fulfill very high technical standards, and we know what the remaining works are,” said Jouni Silvennoinen, a TVO spokesperson.

According to AREVA, the principal driver of recent delays to the project has been the reactor instrumentation & control (I&C) system approval. “After a four year period of exchanges with TVO, the I&C architecture was finally approved in April 2014, giving the consortium a key visibility element to schedule the completion of the project,” the company said.

The updated schedule is based on “key assumptions and commitments concerning TVO’s cooperation as the owner of the plant,” AREVA added. “From the beginning of the project, the role of the owner is essential to the progress on the project, for example to facilitate the review of technical and safety matters by [Finnish regulators], even more during the commissioning phase which is to come.”

The consortium and TVO are expected to hold workshops to “optimize”  the reactor’s commissioning over the coming months.

Most of Finland’s power comes from coal- and natural gas–fired power plants, but the Nordic country also has four existing reactors: TVO’s Olkiluoto 1 and 2, which are boiling-water reactors supplied by Swedish company Asea Atom, and Fortum’s two Soviet-designed VVER-440 pressurized-water reactors.

According to the World Nuclear Association, TVO’s Olkiluoto 1 and 2 started up in 1978–80 at 658 MWe net. Thirty years later, they were uprated to 860 MWe net each (30% more) and their lifetime has been extended to 60 years. TVO has proposed to progressively uprate both reactors further to 1000 MWe each.

Finland’s parliament approved building Olkiluoto 3 in 2002, envisioning it would be operational by spring 2009. TVO signed a €3.2 billion fixed-price turnkey contract with AREVA and Siemens in December 2003, and construction began on what was then the world’s first EPR in May 2005.

But the project has encountered several delays and considerable cost overruns. Some analysts suggest total costs for the project exceed €8.5 billion. AREVA estimates losses at completion of the project will be about €3.9 billion.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)