A long-delayed nuclear power plant in Finland has begun producing electricity, ready to provide energy to a region in need of the facility’s output in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 1.6-GW Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor, which is now the largest reactor in Europe, began a regular production schedule on April 16, according to Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), a nuclear power company owned by Finnish utility Fortum and other members of an energy consortium. Construction of the plant began in 2005.
Russia cut supplies of natural gas and power to Finland and other European countries after invading Ukraine last year. Russia’s power exports to Finland were halted in May 2022 when Inter RAO, a Russian utility, said it had not been paid for energy the company had sold into Finland sold via Nord Pool, the pan-European power exchange.
Olkiluoto 3 is the first nuclear power plant built in Finland in more than 40 years. It was originally scheduled to open in 2009, four years after construction began, but a series of technical issues delayed its start-up. The plant during testing began supplying power to Finland’s national grid in March 2022, and was expected to enter commercial operation in late summer of last year, before breakdowns and other problems resulted in more delays.
Last year’s problems came after years of other issues pushed back the project’s start date.
TVO in a statement said Olkiluoto 3 is expected to provide about 14% of Finland’s electricity production. The company said Sunday’s start-up came after completion of testing for the unit, which has an initial operating lifecycle of 60 years. TVO said the reactor’s output should reduce the need for imports of electricity from neighboring Sweden and Norway.
Jarmo Tanhua, TVO’s chief executive, in a statement said, “The production of Olkiluoto 3 stabilizes the price of electricity and plays an important role in the Finnish green transition.” The company added that “the electricity production volume of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant unit is a significant addition to clean, domestic production.”
Nuclear power experts have estimated Olkiluoto 3’s final price tag at about 11 billion euros ($12 billion). That figure is about three times the project’s original estimated cost.
Finland now has five operating reactors. Nuclear power, with the addition of Olkiluoto 3, is now expected to cover about 40% of the country’s electricity demand.
In 2022 Finland canceled a Russian nuclear power plant.
Fennovoima signed the plant supply contract for Hanhikivi with Rusatom Overseas - Rosatom’s nuclear power plant exports subsidiary - in December 2013. Rosatom offered to build a plant using a 1200 MWe AES-2006 VVER under a fixed-price contract. The Hanhikivi project is owned by Fennovoima, majority owned (66%) by Voimaosakeyhtiö SF, a Finnish company with shareholders including major Finnish corporations and several local energy companies. The remaining 34% is held by RAOS Voima Oy, the Finnish subsidiary set up in 2014 by Rosatom for the purpose of buying a share in the company.
Fennovoima submitted its construction licence application to Finland’s Ministry of Employment and the Economy for the Hanhikivi plant in June 2015, with an updated version submitted in April 2021. In January, Fennovoima said that licensing work had progressed “to the homestretch”, with the final licensing materials expected to be submitted to the nuclear regulator over the next couple of months.
However, on 2 May Fennovoima announced its decision to terminate the EPC contract “due to RAOS Project’s significant delays and inability to deliver the project. There have been significant and growing delays during the last years. The war in Ukraine has worsened the risks for the project. RAOS has been unable to mitigate any of the risks.”