Why don’t the media talk about it? While we welcome the opening of carbon-free power generation parks to limit fossil fuel use with much support from communications and GREEN propaganda from Europe and states such as Germany, Belgium and France, there is… nothing! Not a word from the media either about reaching 100% capacity of Europe’s largest low-carbon electricity production reactor and the safest in the world. 1600MW electric, sorry! In the midst of the Russian gas crisis, not a word of this good news for defenders of the fight against global warming and the limitation of fossil fuels.
So we’re going to talk about it. A bit of history about the construction of Olkiluoto 3 (OL3), the Finnish EPR.
The signing of the decision to build an EPR in Finland dates back to 2003. Fuel loading took place on March 26, 2021, reactor divergence in December of the same year. The first electric MW was delivered to the network in January 2022 and finally the reactor reached full power on September 30, after all qualification tests on the different power levels and already produced more than 1 TWh!
After the 2 Taishan EPR’s in China, this is the 3e EPR in use around the world. But by the way, what is an EHR? It is a pressurized water reactor, like the 58 reactors of the French nuclear fleet, which have a lifespan of more than 2000 years. It also includes all experience feedback from global nuclear accidents with 4 independent and redundant nuclear protection trains (1), for only 2 on previous generation reactors. The EPR is built to gain 1 factor 10 on the probability of core non-melting, over a 60 to 80 year lifetime and 93% availability. He embodies the “generation III”.
What explains the long construction time?
- First of all, it is necessary to refer to the definition of these 3 letters, EPR, European Pressurized Reactor. “E” for Europe later became Evolutionary. Result of a Franco-German co-design, both at the level of the manufacturers and the respective nuclear authorities, enriched with the industrial specifications of potential European customers, federated in 1 Club called EUR European Utilities Requirements led by EDF (Iberdrola, Among them were RWE, Vattenfalls, ENEL, British Energy). In short, finally about 12 actors.
- At the very beginning, before the first pickaxe, we had to decide who was going to build iter European EPR, EDF, AREVA, SIEMENS? Finally, the construction of the Finnish EPR was carried out by a consortium Franco-German AREVA & SIEMENS on a competitive fixed launch price basis, as we were in the post-Chernobyl period, with few nuclear projects in the world. After the Fukushima accident in 2011, German nuclear policy changed politically. SIEMENS has changed its priorities, its nuclear activity is becoming ultra-minority. The same also applied to all German suppliers, who saw this industry close at full speed with the “EnergieWende”, the German energy transition. The company AREVA continued to manage the project on its own, but took on 100% of its financial excesses 1er European EPR reactor.
- It is also worth mentioning the weather limitations of the Finnish winter, which is particularly long and cold, down to temperatures of -25°C. For the record, pouring concrete cannot be performed below 1°C. Inevitably, the duration of the first phase of the project was roughly doubled. Also, certain professions, such as welders, cannot be performed with mitts at these extreme temperatures.
- One of the collective difficulties was the Finnish safety authority STUK, which is responsible for the other Finland-based nuclear technology, called boiling water BWR, which had to hire its inspectors and above all train them in the new EPR concept. This considerably lengthens the lead time of the technical instructions and the manufacturer/ASN relationship, which has hindered the progress of the work several times.
- These insights are just a sampling of the complexity of such a prototype project, which involved up to approximately 6,000 employees from more than 65 different nationalities.
Nevertheless, the result is there, all actors have committed themselves to a joint success. Europe can congratulate itself on the safe and low-carbon 1600 MW that prevents us from using Russian gas, if there is any left, and especially German coal. These 1600 MWe also contribute to the safety and stability of the electricity grid, through the primary margin at 15 min.
Moreover, a margin and stability of the network have been continuously reduced and weakened for years by the withdrawal and closure of quantities of flexible and controllable production resources Superphoenix, Fessenheim, Doel and all German reactors. A zero margin for the randomly intermittent renewables that contribute nothing to grid stability, other than the hydroelectric dams. The risk of blackout has never been higher!
Long live the EPR OL3!
(1): To protect the core in an accident, controlling the reactivity, cooling and containment of the core requires a certain number of materials and components. On the reactors of previous generations, all this equipment is duplicated and powered by 2 independent emergency diesels. On the EPD, all these backup equipment and diesels have quadrupled. These are called the 4 independent and redundant backup trains.
By unknown author — Teollisuuden Voima Oy, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=459449