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Delay at Finland’s New Nuke Reactor Imperils Country’s Power Supply

Delay at Finland’s New Nuke Reactor Imperils Country’s Power Supply
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By Staff, Agencies

Despite being touted as a “flagship of European nuclear energy,” Olkiluoto-3 has taken more than 15 years to complete, cost the Nordic nation dearly and ranks among the world’s most expensive buildings, with a staggering price tag of at least $11 billion.

Finland’s new Olkiluoto 3 reactor will remain offline longer than expected, and full-scale electricity production will not commence before 2023.

Its owner Teollisuuden Voima announced that an investigation into damage at the already much-delayed reactor’s feedwater pumps will continue for a number of weeks, with a knock-on effect on the schedule of regular electricity production. Due to the ongoing investigation, the exact timeframe for the launch of the reactor remains unknown, but was estimated as the end of January 2022 at the earliest.

During the ongoing investigation, maintenance work will continue at the plant unit’s turbine.

Further delays to regular electricity production at Olkiluoto 3 will have a significant impact on Finland's electricity self-sufficiency. Since the reactor won’t be operational by winter, energy prices, already elevated as a result of Europe’s energy pinch, are likely to rise even further.

The damage to the reactor is thus a major setback for the cold Nordic nation, whose authorities had already warned of an elevated risk of shortages and even blackouts unless the reactor provides a reliable supply of electricity.

The latest delay increases uncertainty over the country's power supply this winter, especially in January, national grid operator Fingrid stressed. Earlier this autumn, it predicted a peak electricity consumption in Finland of 14,400 megawatts for this winter, whereas domestic production, even with Olkiluoto 3 included, would only cover 12,900 megawatts.

Olkiluoto 3, a 1,900-megawatt European Pressurized Water Reactor [EPR], was granted a construction permit in 2005 and was originally scheduled for completion in 2009. The order made Finland the first Western European nation in 15 years to order a new nuclear reactor, following a protracted nuclear scare driven by the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.

However, the project has faced a long stream of delays, technical issues, cost overruns and legal disputes. With a breathtaking price tag of $11 billion already in 2018. Olkiluoto-3 has long been touted as the “flagship of European nuclear energy,” but has taken more than 15 years to complete, cost the Nordic nation dearly and ranks among the world’s most expensive buildings.

Europe’s energy crisis has been aggravated by Brussels’ ill-conceived energy sanctions against Moscow over its special operation in Ukraine. The EU in general has been heavily reliant on Russian fossil fuels, with Moscow supplying some 40 percent of its natural gas and some 27 percent of its imported oil before the conflict.

Nevertheless, despite this substantial level of dependence, the EU issued a blank “no” to Russian fossil fuels as part of its massive sanctions campaign in a bid to “punish” Russia. However, as trouble with finding alternative sources arose, numerous EU nations are now resorting to austerity measures to conserve energy, with authorities issuing grave warnings about rolling blackouts.

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