Bidding starts for Olkiluoto 4

26 March 2012

While the bidding process for construction of a fourth reactor at Finland's Olkiluoto site has been launched, the country needs to invest in the future workforce for nuclear industry and regulation.

Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) has invited five reactor vendors - Areva, GE Hitachi (GEH), Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), Mitsubishi and Toshiba - to submit bids to construct the new unit, which it expects to enter operation around 2020. Under consideration are Areva's EPR, GEH's ESBWR, KHNP's APR 1400, Mitsubishi's APWR and Toshiba's ABWR.


Olkiluoto site with 4 units
How the Olkiluoto site could look with four reactors (Image: TVO)


Bids are expected in early 2013 and TVO aims to submit a formal application for a construction licence for Olkiluoto 4 in mid-2015 at the latest.

Janne Mokka, senior vice president for the Olkiluoto 4 project, said: "Together with the potential plant supplier alternatives we have now started engineering to clarify that the plant types to be offered to us meet Finnish safety requirements and can be implemented at Olkiluoto." He noted, "There is a construction site already for the new unit at Olkiluoto as well as a power plant infrastructure that supports the project."

MHI said that it would conduct a feasibility study to "secure and to fulfill engineering, procurement and construction requirements" in its bid. The company said that the engineering study order from TVO "represents an important steady step" for MHI in its marketing of the APWR in Europe.

TVO applied for a Finnish government decision in principle in 2008 to construct a 1000-1800 MWe pressurized water reactor or boiling water reactor as the fourth unit at Olkiluoto. The government made favorable decision for the reactor in May 2010. The parliament's ratification for that decision in principle was given in 2010.

The third unit at Okliluoto is the first-of-a-kind EPR reactor and the first new-build project in Finland since 1982. It is being built by a consortium of Areva and Siemens. Construction started on the plant in 2005, with completion originally scheduled for 2009. However, the project has suffered several setbacks. There were significant delays after elevated levels of water in concrete could not be readily explained to the Finnish nuclear safety regulator, Stuk. In addition, some large steel components were re-cast after subcontractors failed to fulfill the high standards demanded of a nuclear project, while Stuk's acceptance of the instrumentation and control system was another major sticking point. TVO announced in December 2011 that it now anticipates the plant to begin commercial operation in August 2014.

Skills shortage

The Committee for Nuclear Energy Competence in Finland - set up in October 2010 by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy to examine the long-term education and research needs of the nuclear energy sector - has estimated that some 2400 new workers will be needed in the industry by 2025.

According to the committee, there are currently around 3300 employees in Finland's nuclear energy sector, but some 1200 of these are due to retire by 2025. Meanwhile, nuclear new build projects and development of a waste repository will raise the industry's workforce requirements to about 4500.

In a report submitted today to the minister of economic affairs, the committee says that "safe and reliable use of nuclear energy requires that the national competence base in the nuclear sector is strong." It adds, "Regulations and activities must continue to be developed in accordance with the principles of continual improvement to meet the highest nuclear safety requirements."

However, it notes that Finnish nuclear energy research is primarily financed by companies operating in the nuclear sector. The government, the committee suggests, "must ensure sufficient contribution to the development of Finnish research competence and to securing a high level of competence."

The needs and focus areas of the country's nuclear energy research "must be accurately defined" and a long-term strategy drawn up for further development of research activity, the committee concluded.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News