With 12 years late, the Finnish EPR built by Areva finally starts

It was precisely 2:22 a.m., 3:22 a.m. in Finland, on the night of December 20 to 21 when the power station finally started working, with its first chain reaction and when it was minus 12 ° outside. Everything went normally on this site called Olkiluoto 3 (3 because there are already two old power plants in the same place and also a landfill site). Olkiluoto is located on a peninsula in western Finland, on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, facing Sweden, not far as the crow flies from the Swedish capital Stockholm.

The earth-colored and metallic building has a huge 150,000 m3 concrete structure to protect the structure of the EPR. The actual electricity production will not start until January, with connection to the Finnish grid. And even then, Olkiluoto will only run at 30% of its capacity. We will have to wait until next June to see the plant running at full speed. It should then, on its own, provide 1,650 megawatts, 14 to 15% of the electricity consumption of this country of five and a half million inhabitants. Finnish operator TVO describes the startup as “historic momentThis is also an important step for Areva, while the French EPR, that of Flamanville, itself sees its opening constantly postponed.

And there in Finland, it was therefore necessary to wait 12 years: a “quagmire” even admitted by an engineer involved in the case. 16 years of construction in total, including 12 years late. It had become the Arlésienne. In the meantime, the cost has quadrupled, from 3 billion to 12 billion euros, probably more with indirect costs. An invoice partly paid by you and me, since by the French State, behind Areva. The site, like that of Flamanville, had many technical problems.

It was necessary to change cracked pipes, modify the control valves, reinforce the concrete structure. Relations have been strained with the Finnish nuclear safety authority, Stuk. During this time, on the French side, the nuclear sector has been reorganized, thus problems of interlocutors, backward references and legal disputes. With a constantly postponed delivery, 2009, then 2014, then 2018. And finally 2021, almost 2022. With each time financial penalties for delay.

That said, the result is an important symbol in both economic and geopolitical terms. First, it is the first time in 15 years that a new nuclear power station has been put into operation on European soil. And for the nuclear industry, it is the hope that this energy, very poorly after the Fukushima disaster, will regain market share.

Its supporters, in particular France, stress that it does not emit CO2 and therefore hope to see the European Commission classify nuclear as an energy compatible with the green plan on the climate. And then it is also the symbol of Finland’s European attachment to its big neighbor to the east, Russia, which won the contract to build another nuclear reactor in the country at Pyhäjoki, a bit further north. Finland therefore seeks to spare its various partners while guaranteeing its energy independence.

source site-25