The Finnish government has issued an operating permit for the delayed Olkiluoto 3 EPR reactor, the country's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (MEE) said on 7 March. Olkiluoto 3 still needs a final licence from nuclear regulator Stuk to allow it to load fuel and start production.
The plant's owner Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO) has faced a delay of ten years for completion of the 1600MWe unit supplied by France’s Areva. The original start-up target date was 2009. TVO said the fixed-term licence for the Olkiluoto 3 is valid until the end of 2038. The decision came after Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) submitted an assessment based on a comprehensive safety review.
TVO is required to make a first periodic safety re-assessment by the end of 2028 and submits it to Stuk for approval. Before any fuel can be loaded, TVO will have to eliminate vibrations in the pressuriser surge line, which were detected during recent commissioning tests. Stuk will oversee the work and verify that the modifications have been completed. Loading of nuclear fuel is expected by the end of 2019 for operation in 2020.
In March, TVO signed an agreement with Areva-Siemens (Areva was restructured into Framatome and Orano in 2017) relating to costs and losses caused by delays to the project. The settlement included compensation of €450m to be paid in two instalments.
Jarmo Tanhua, the president and CEO of TVO, welcomed the "historical decision" to grant the first operating licence for a new nuclear power plant in Finland since 1979.
He said: "This decision is for us significant acknowledgement of the work we do and the expertise we possess in Olkiluoto. 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."
Photo: Finland's Olkiluoto nuclear site (Credit: TVO)