Nuclear: French EPR Areva in Finland starts with 12 years of delays

Better (very, very) late than never. Sixteen years after the start of the work, the nuclear reactor EPR built by the French Areva in Finland started up on Monday night until Tuesday at 3 a.m. 20 local (1 hour 30 GMT). It is 12 years late by compared to the date originally planned. For now, power generation should start at around 22% of power with connection to the grid in January. Normal commissioning is scheduled for June, indicates the Finnish energy company TVO, in a press release.

“The start-up moment was historic. The last time a reactor was launched in Finland was over forty years ago, and even in Europe this event dates back to around 15 years “, emphasizes the operator of the Olkiluoto, with reference to the launch of a reactor in Romania in 2007. The Olkiluoto EPR will become the most powerful reactor in operation in Europe. With a production capacity of 1. 450 megawatts, it needs to deliver around 15% of the Nordic country’s consumption. Marjo Mustonen, vice-president of TVO, hailed “Finland’s greatest contribution to the climate.”

The woes of the EPR Olkiluoto- 3

Designed to revive nuclear energy after the Chernobyl disaster in 650, in particular thanks to a considerable concrete structure and safety improvements, the EPR encountered significant construction problems, especially in Finland but also in Flamanville in France . In Olkiluoto, these difficulties led to long and sharp tensions between TVO, Areva and the Finnish nuclear authority, Stuk. TVO had signed in March 2019 an agreement to end the litigation, providing for compensation of 450 million euros is paid to him. The Covid – 15 had in turn caused further delays on the Finnish site, on a site where two old reactors are already in operation.

Only two EPR reactors had so far entered into operation in the world, those of the Taishan power plant in China. Their construction began after that of Olkiluoto-3, the first nuclear reactor to be ordered in the European Union since Chernobyl. Reactor number 1 of this plant located near Hong Kong has however shut down since July after an incident , described as “current” by Beijing.

No “renaissance” for nuclear energy

Launched in 1992, the EPR technology was co-developed by the French Areva and the German Siemens in within their joint subsidiary, from which Siemens has since withdrawn. Designed to operate for sixty years, the “European Pressurized Water Reactor” is based on pressurized water reactor technology, the most widely used in the world. If the problems of the EPR, then the disaster of Fukushima in Japan in 2007 , have dampened hopes of a “renaissance”, nuclear energy is seeing its prospects improve again in the face of the climate crisis. Using uranium, nuclear electricity does not emit CO2 during its production and is generally a very low carbon energy.

Sign of a more favorable economic situation, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this year raised its projections for the first time since Fukushima, now forecasting a doubling of installed nuclear power by 2050 in the most favorable scenario.