This June, AREVA installed the reactor pressure vessel (Figure 6)—the core of the unit—at the world’s first EPR project, which is under construction in Finland. Now the company will engage in a flurry of installation activities for heavy nuclear components, including lifting into the reactor the first of the four steam generators. Most of the work is expected to be completed by the end of 2012, with power production beginning in 2013.

6. Reacting to the pressure. AREVA has installed the reactor pressure vessel at the Olkiluoto 3 plant under construction in Finland, the site of the world’s first EPR. The steel component weighs 420 metric tons and measures 5.3 meters in diameter and 10.6 meters high. Installed using the permanent polar crane and a large movable crane, the remarkable technical feat follows the project’s last major milestone in September 2009, when the reactor dome was fitted. AREVA now expects the plant will be operational in 2013. Courtesy: AREVA

In a recent update on its 2010 income outlook, the French company said that an extra provision of some €400 million for the project would likely put it in the red again for the first half of 2010. The project for Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj, originally due to come online in 2009, is already three years behind schedule and has been consistently plagued with faulty materials and planning problems since construction began in 2005. The delays have been costly: The original fixed-price contract for the unit signed by the AREVA-Siemens supplier consortium in December 2003 was for €3.2 billion, and last year AREVA reported that the total cost of the flagship third-generation reactor had risen to some €5.3 billion.

The EPR, a third-generation pressurized water reactor, is also under construction at Flamanville, France, and Taishan in China. AREVA told POWER in May that the two Taishan EPRs were faring well, with concrete for the second reactor recently poured by Chinese utility CGNPC. Those two reactors are now expected to be commissioned in late 2013 and 2014.

Regarding the Flamanville 3 reactor, AREVA said it had reached two major milestones this year: delivering the pressurizer relief tank and putting in the first vent drain system tank (whose purpose is to collect primary recoverable radioactive effluents as well as some discharges from safety valves). The plant’s owner, Électricité de France, maintained in January that the reactor was on track to be completed in 2012, with operation beginning by 2013. However, French media Le Figaro recently reported, citing an unnamed source, that the project would likely see more than a two-year delay because it was faced with numerous “technical obstacles.”