Startup of Olkiluoto 3 Nuclear Plant Delayed Again

Continued problems with construction of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant in Finland have pushed the facility’s expected start date into 2019, meaning operations will not begin until at least 10 years after the original proposed start of commercial service.

Project owner Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) on October 9 announced further delays. TVO project director Jouni Silvennoinen in a statement said: “We are very disappointed by this additional delay. There is still substantial work to be accomplished in the project.”

The 1.6-GW Olkiluoto 3 project is being built by a group led by Areva, France’s state-owned nuclear group. The nuclear plant, where construction began in 2005, was originally expected to begin operation in 2009. According to an October 9 Reuters story: “An Areva spokesman said the reactor would produce its first power at the end of 2018, but the ramp-up to full production would delay the commercial start-up to May 2019. He said hot-testing would start in December 2017, nuclear fuel would be loaded in August 2018, first grid connection would be in December 2018 and the commercial start would be May 2019.” The project is expected to supply about 10% of Finland’s electricity.

The project, much like new nuclear projects in the U.S. in Georgia and South Carolina, has been plagued by huge cost overruns, legal disputes, and construction delays. Olkiluoto 3 is being developed with European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) technology, considered a direct descendant of Areva’s N4 and KONVOI reactors. The pressurized water in the primary system is used to moderate and slow neutrons, allowing for a nuclear reaction in the core, transferring heat generated during the reaction to steam generators.

TVO was the first customer for the EPR technology, which also would be used in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in England, a project discussed since 2008 but which remains on the drawing board.

French nuclear regulators this week said a similar reactor can start at the Flamanville nuclear plant by year-end 2018. Flamanville, where construction began in 2007, is another EPR project that has been delayed on several occasions. The 1,630-MW plant was originally expected to begin commercial operation in 2013.

Okiluoto 3’s original cost was pegged at about 3.2 billion euros ($3.8 billion U.S.), but in 2012 Areva put the construction tab at 8.5 billion euros ($10.1 billion U.S.). Areva has not updated those projections since 2012.

Disputes between TVO and Areva have led to continued delays. TVO in September told the European Commission that Areva might not be able to meet its liabilities in Finland, owing to France’s restructuring of its nuclear industry and the fact Areva is selling its reactor business to French utility EDF. Anna Lehtiranta, senior vice president of corporate relations at TVO, said at that time TVO was in favor of government financial aid for Areva, but told the commission “we think current aid is not sufficient” for Areva to meet its liabilities.

TVO also is being sued by Areva and Areva’s joint partner, Siemens of Germany, for 3.5 billion euros ($4.1 billion U.S.) in an arbitration case with the International Chamber of Commerce. TVO is countersuing Areva for 2.6 billion euros ($3.1 billion U.S.). Areva has a 73% stake in the consortium building Olkiluoto; Siemens has a 27% stake. A final ruling in the arbitration case is expected early in 2018.

—Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor. (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)