The start of operations at the Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima’s (TVO’s) Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant, Europe’s first EPR, which is under construction in Finland, could be postponed until 2014. The $4 billion project, originally due to come online in 2009, is years behind schedule and has been consistently plagued with faulty materials and planning problems since construction began in 2005.

TVO and the plant’s turnkey supplier, a consortium originally formed by France’s AREVA and Siemens AG, have since 2008 disagreed over who is responsible for the delays, a dispute currently being reviewed by the International Chamber of Commerce. TVO has reportedly estimated that it is entitled to €2.4 billion ($3.3 billion) in losses stemming from the delays. Siemens and AREVA are also demanding compensation worth €1 billion. Arbitration proceedings are expected to continue for several years.

The consortium said today that the project is now 80% complete, including finalization of civil engineering work, completion of the outer dome, and full installation of the four primary cooling systems. But, “based on the latest progress information” submitted by the consortium, TVO estimates the start of regular operation at the reactor won’t occur until 2014.

“The turn-key plant supplier is responsible for the time schedule and TVO has requested an analysis of the anticipated date for the start of regular operation,” the utility said in a statement today. “However, the plant supplier has informed about further delay in the development of the [instrumentation and controls] system, which has become critical for the time schedule.”

TVO said reactor plant piping and electrical installation works have also taken longer than previously estimated and that the accumulated delays would impact the start of the plant commissioning.

In a statement, the AREVA-Siemens consortium urged TVO to cooperate with the partners during the testing phase, saying TVO had in August endorsed “the establishment of a shared process to consolidate the OL3 completion schedule.” Through the process, which will be completed by the end of the year, execution of the final phases of the project would be “optimized by giving the partners a clear, detailed view of the tasks to be performed to commission the nuclear reactor,” the consortium said. “This approach is all the more essential in that the consortium’s and TVO’s efforts will require intense coordination and mutual commitment during the commissioning of the world’s first third generation reactor.”

“At this stage, as the project transitions from construction completion to commissioning and operation of systems, it is expected that TVO assumes a growing role in the successful finalization of the plant,” said Jean-Pierre Mouroux, director of the OL3 project.

Sources: POWERnews, AREVA, TVO