Poor planning held up Finnish nuclear reactor

29th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The plant on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland, to be run by Finnish nuclear power company TVO, was meant to start production this summer.

Helsinki -- Poor planning has led to rising costs and huge delays for a nuclear reactor going up in Finland, the country's biggest-ever construction project, officials said.

The plant on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland, to be run by Finnish nuclear power company TVO, was meant to start production this summer.
But it is now not expected to open for another three years and Finnish authorities cannot hide their disappointment with Areva-Siemens, the Franco-German contractor running the building operations.

"They (Areva) started planning when they won the contract, which was of course too late. They should have used two years for planning (in advance)," said Jukka Laaksonen, director general of the Finnish safety agency STUK.

He told AFP that France's Areva also struggled to adapt to local Finnish rules, further delaying construction of what is billed as a groundbreaking project that will be the world's first third-generation nuclear reactor.

"The French did not understand at first the Finnish system, that no important device can be built before the plan is approved," Laaksonen said.

STUK said there were various problems in Olkiluoto over the years, including the quality of concrete, welding work and safety practices at the site.

Areva's managing director of Finnish operations Osmo Kaipainen defended the company's work on the project. "Authorities are never satisfied" when it comes to meeting safety regulations, he said.

He added that TVO was slow delivering Areva-Siemens' documents to STUK for validation, which are needed before moving from one building task to another.
TVO's project director Jouni Silvennoinen hit back, blaming Areva and Siemens for insisting the companies had spent "significantly more time on planning" than the contract asked for.

The building of the new reactor, which currently employs 4,000 people, began in 2005, two years after the initial deal was signed.

In January, Areva and TVO announced its opening would be pushed back to June 2012, three years later than planned.

The reactor was meant to start producing electricity this summer and costs were estimated to be around three billion euros (4.2 billion dollars).

But the delays have seen that price soar and now the three companies have turned to the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce to claw back some compensation from the project.

Areva and Siemens are jointly seeking one billion euros from the arbitration process, while TVO is counter-claiming for 2.4 billion euros, according to a statement released by Germany's Siemens in January.

Areva has billed the site as heralding the "rebirth of the nuclear industry."

The government is expected to decide in early 2010 if any more additional reactors will be built and has hinted that only one more will be needed over the next decade. The parliament also has to approve the plan.

Built close to the Baltic Sea, the new plant has been subject to fierce criticism from environmental groups such as Greenpeace.

They say the reactor, known as a European pressurised reactor, has not been sufficiently tested and so poses a safety risk.

"When the reactor was sold to Finns, it was said to be dramatically safer than current reactors," said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace's energy campaign manager in Finland. "But that claim is unfounded."


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