The Finnish government today granted utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) an operating licence for the first-of-a-kind EPR at Olkiluoto. Once it enters commercial operation early next year, the 1600 MWe pressurised water reactor will supply some 15% of the country's electricity demand.

Olkiluoto unit 3, pictured in September 2016 (Image: TVO)

Today's announcement by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (TEM) followed the submission of a positive statement and security assessment to the ministry on 25 February by Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk). Stuk's safety assessment concluded that the plant has been constructed to be safe and that TVO is able to operate it safely. The regulator said it saw no reason why an operating licence for Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) should not be granted.

Jarmo Tanhua, president and CEO of TVO, welcomed the "historical decision" to grant the operating licence for OL3, the first to be granted for a new nuclear power plant in Finland since 1979.

"This decision is for us significant acknowledgement of the work we do and the expertise we possess in Olkiluoto," he said. "It has been a long project. The operating licence is an important step towards the start of electricity production and us fulfilling the expectations that were set for the construction decision at that time, concerning security of electricity supply in Finland, as well as the reduction of emissions and dependence on imports."

Marjo Mustonen, senior vice president of electricity production at TVO said the commissioning of OL3 will be the "greatest single action for the benefit of the climate ever in Finnish history".

TVO submitted its 130,000-page application to TEM in April 2016. The application contained information on, among other things, the technical and operational safety principles, arrangement for nuclear waste management, and details of TVO's expertise and financial position. In addition to seeking approval to operate Olkiluoto 3 for an initial 20-year period (until the end of 2038), TVO's application also sought permission to use the existing on-site interim storage facilities for the used fuel and other radioactive wastes that will be generated by the unit over this period. The application did not concern the use of final disposal facilities for nuclear wastes.

The licence conditions state that TVO must conduct a periodic safety assessment on OL3 by the end of 2028 and submit it for Stuk's approval. TEM said the scope of that review "will be determined on the basis of applicable international and national recommendations and practices, and Stuk's regulations and requirements". It said that other licence conditions relate to the possession, production, processing, use and storage of nuclear material, and radioactive waste management.

"Olkiluoto 3 is the first nuclear power plant in the world to have a fully designed and operational waste management system ready at the commissioning stage," noted Kimmo Tiilikainen, minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing. "The plant is included in the plans for a final disposal facility, prepared by Posiva, an expert organisation responsible for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel."

Preparations for the start-up of Olkiluoto 3 are progressing. For fuel loading, TVO still requires a separate authorisation from Stuk. However, one issue to be resolved before fuel can be loaded into the reactor's core is the elimination of vibrations detected during the commissioning tests of the plant in the pressuriser surge line, which is part of the reactor coolant system.

The Areva-Siemens consortium began construction of Olkiluoto 3 - the first-of-a-kind EPR - in 2005 under a turnkey contract signed with TVO in late 2003. Completion of the reactor was originally scheduled for 2009, but the project has suffered various delays and setbacks. Under the latest schedule, fuel will now be loaded into the reactor core in June this year, with grid connection to take place in October, and the start of regular electricity generation scheduled for January 2020.

Tiilikainen said Finland needs to do all it can to combat climate change. "The commissioning of long-awaited Olkiluoto 3 will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly 80% of Finland's electricity is already generated without causing emissions, and the new nuclear power unit will raise the percentage to 85."

In December, unit 1 of the Taishan plant in China's Guangdong province became the first EPR to enter commercial operation. Taishan 2 is scheduled to begin commercial operation this year. The loading of fuel into the core of the Flamanville EPR in France is expected towards the end of this year. Two EPR units are also under construction at the Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, UK.

Reactors in Finland

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Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 07 March 2019
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