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Olkiluoto-3 / Finland’s Regulator Issues Fuel Loading Permit For EPR Unit

By David Dalton
26 March 2021

Delayed Generation III plant scheduled for commercial operation in early 2022
Finland’s Regulator Issues Fuel Loading Permit For EPR Unit
Fuel loading will start soon at the Generation III Olkiluoto nuclear power station in Finland. Courtesy TVO.
Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) on Friday gave a fuel loading permit for the Olkiluoto-3 nuclear power plant with the 1,600-MW Generation III EPR unit scheduled to start up in October and begin commercial operation in February 2022.

Stuk said it had verified plant operator Teollisuuden Voima Oyj’s (TVO) readiness to begin the fuel loading. TVO’s Olkiluoto-3 project director, Jouni Silvennoinen said the permit was the most significant step in the commissioning of the plant unit so far. He said systems have now been rigorously tested and “we will be able to begin fuel loading soon”.

The fuel arrived in Olkiluoto in 2018. During the fuel loading, 241 fuel assemblies, comprising about 128 tonnes of uranium, will be transferred from storage into the reactor’s pressure vessel.

The assemblies have all been manufactured in Framatome’s plants in Germany and in France. Framatome said that to carry out the loading operations, a team made up of approximately 40 employees from TVO, Areva and Framatome has been formed. It includes around 15 fuel handlers, employees specialising in the fuel handling operations, and four neutronics engineers in charge of monitoring the core during loading.

Completion of the fuel loading will be followed by a new series of hot functional tests before the first criticality and commissioning for commercial operation.

Once the reactor is in service, Framatome teams will contribute to the maintenance of the Olkiluoto-3 reactor under a long-term service contract signed between Framatome and TVO in late 2019. They will be supported by the new subsidiary, Framatome Finland, created in 2019.

An updated schedule published in October 2020 for Olkiluoto-3 said fuel would be loaded into the reactor in March 2021, the unit will be connected to the grid in October 2021 and regular electricity production will begin in February 2022.

The schedule means construction of the plant, which began in August 2005, is about 10 years behind schedule.

The cost of Olkiluoto-3 was initially put at €3.2bn, but in 2012 Areva estimated the overall cost at closer to €8.5bn. Since then, it has not made public any updated cost projection. TVO told NucNet in an email it would not comment on the cost of the station.

Teollisuuden Voima Oyj implemented several risk management measures related to the Olkiluoto-3 EPR project in 2020 in an effort to improve the company’s readiness to commission the plant and operate it alongside Olkiluoto-1 and Olkiluoto-2.

TVO said in its annual report for 2020 that it was closely monitoring compliance with conditions set in a settlement agreement reached in March 2018. The agreement was signed with the plant supplier consortium companies Areva NP, Areva GmbH, and Siemens AG, and with the Areva Group parent company Areva SA, which is wholly owned by the French state.

In the agreement, the consortium companies committed to ensuring funds are available for completion of the project.

Olkiluoto-3 was procured as a fixed-price turnkey project from a consortium formed by Areva GmbH, Areva NP SAS, and Siemens AG. The contract stipulates that consortium companies have joint and several liability for contractual obligations.

TVO said Areva’s new management, appointed in the summer of 2020, was preparing a financial solution for completing the project. Negotiations are continuing with the Areva–Siemens consortium on the terms of the project’s completion, TVO said.

As a part of a restructuring programme in 2016 following its insolvency, Areva sold its reactor business subsidiary Areva NP (now Framatome) to EDF and its nuclear propulsion and research reactors subsidiary Areva TA (now Technicatome) to Agence des participations de l'État. It separated its nuclear cycle business into a separate company New Areva (now Orano). As a result, Areva S.A. became wholly state-owned by the French government, remaining responsible only for liabilities related to the Olkiluoto-3 project and holding a 40% stake in Orano.

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