IAEA reviews operational safety at Olkiluoto

16 March 2017

The operator of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant on Finland's southwestern coast has demonstrated a strong commitment to safety, an expert team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded. However, the mission made recommendations to Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) to reinforce some safety measures.

Olkiluoto 1-3 - 460  (TVO)
Units 1 to 3 of Finland's Olkiluoto plant (Image: TVO)

An Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) today completed a 17-day mission to the plant, which comprises two operating 880 MWe boiling water reactors, the first-of-a-kind EPR nearing completion and a used fuel repository under construction. The EPR and repository were not included in the review. The 16-member team consisted of experts from Bulgaria, China, France, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, Sweden, the USA, as well as four IAEA experts.

OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA's Safety Standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate.

The review at Olkiluoto covered the areas of leadership and management for safety; training and qualification; operations; maintenance; technical support; operating experience; radiation protection; chemistry; emergency preparedness and response; accident management; human, technology and organisation interactions; long-term operation; and probabilistic safety assessment.

The OSART team noted the plant management's commitment to continuously improving the leadership, motivation and well-being of staff.

The team said it identified a number of good practices at the Olkiluoto plant that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally. These include strong capabilities to perform comprehensive probabilistic safety assessments to estimate risks and use the results to improve plant safety. The plant also participates with others in the Nordic region to share operating experience. Olkiluoto also provides extensive support to research institutes on studies related to the management of potential severe accidents.

The mission also made a number of proposals to improve operational safety at the Olkiluoto units 1 and 2. These include: the plant should evaluate the effectiveness of recent organisational changes and implement any needed corrective actions; it should enhance maintenance practices to ensure equipment deficiencies are resolved in a timely manner; and, the plant should ensure adequate resources and expertise to secure the safe and reliable operation of the units beyond their original design lifetime.

The OSART team leader, Vesselina Ranguelova, said: "The plant is going through a challenging transition period because of organizational changes required by the commissioning and future operation of both the new unit and a deep geological repository for long-term used fuel storage on the Olkiluoto site." She added, "Safety is considered a priority in all decision-making processes and the plant will benefit from the recommendations and suggestions provided by the IAEA team."

The OSART team provided a draft of its report to Olkiluoto plant management and will submit the final report to the Finnish government within three months.

Olkiluoto plant management said it would address the areas identified for improvement and requested the IAEA schedule a follow-up mission in about 18 months' time.

"TVO considers international peer reviews as an important element of improving nuclear safety," Olkiluoto plant manager Mikko Kosonen said. "The exchange of experience between experts in different fields is also a great opportunity for TVO to share our good practices and to get similar good practices from other plants."

Finland is planning to host OSART missions over the next year to the Olkiluoto EPR and the two units at Loviisa, the IAEA said.

Liisa Heikinheimo, deputy director general of the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment's energy department, said: "For the ministry, the timing of the OSART missions is good because we have operating licence processes for Olkiluoto units under consideration and the OSART missions will support these as an external review."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News