Olkiluoto

The Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant (Finnish: Olkiluodon ydinvoimalaitos) is on Olkiluoto Island, which is on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia in the municipality of Eurajoki in western Finland. It is one of Finland's two nuclear power plants, the other being the two-unit VVER Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant. The plant is operated by Teollisuuden Voima, a subsidiary of Pohjolan Voima.

The Olkiluoto plant consists of two Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) with 860 MWe each. Unit 3, the first EPR (European Pressurized water Reactor) is under construction, but various problems with workmanship and supervision have created costly delays which have been the subject of an inquiry by the Finnish nuclear regulator Säteilyturvakeskus (STUK). A license for a fourth reactor to be built at the site was granted by the Finnish parliament in July 2010.

Units 1 and 2

Units 1 and 2 consists of two BWRs with 860 MWe each. These were supplied by ASEA-Atom, now a part of Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB. Turbine generators were supplied by Stal-Laval. The units' architecture was designed by ASEA-Atom. Reactor pressure vessels were constructed by Uddcomb Sweden AB, and reactor internal parts, mechanical components by Finnatom. Electrical equipment was supplied by Oy Strömberg Ab. Unit 1 was constructed by Atomirakennus and unit 2 by Jukola and Työyhtymä. Unit 1 achieved its initial criticality in July 1978 and it started commercial operations in October 1979. Unit 2 achieved its initial criticality in October 1979 and it started commercial operations in July 1982.

Unit 3

The first license application for the third reactor (EPR) was made in December 2000 and the original commissioning date of the third reactor was set to May 2009. However, in May 2009 the plant was "at least three and a half years behind schedule and more than 50 percent over-budget". The commissioning deadline has been postponed several times and as of June 2010 operation is set to start in 2013 at a fixed price of €3 billion ($4.1 billion). The reactor pressure vessel was installed on 21 June 2010.

The project was started by Areva NP, a joint venture of AREVA and Siemens, but Siemens withdrew and sold its share to AREVA. Work began on the Olkiluoto EPR in 2005, but various problems with workmanship have created delays:

According to Professor Stephen Thomas, "Olkiluoto has become an example of all that can go wrong in economic terms with new reactors".Areva and the utility involved "are in bitter dispute over who will bear the cost overruns and there is a real risk now that the utility will default". The project has also been criticized by the Finnish nuclear safety regulator, STUK, because "instructions have not been observed in the welding of pipes and the supervision of welding." STUK has also noted that there have been delays in submitting proper paperwork. Olkiluoto 3 was supposed to be the first "third generation" reactor which would pave the way for a new wave of identical reactors - safe, affordable, and delivered on time - across Europe. The delays and cost overruns have had knock-on effects in other countries.

Unit 4

On 14 February 2008, Teollisuuden Voima submitted an environmental impact assessment of the unit four to the Ministry of Employment and Economy. On 21 April 2010, the Government of Finland decided to grant a permit to Teollisuuden Voima for construction of the fourth reactor in Olkiluoto. The decision was approved by the Parliament on 1 July 2010. If constructed, the fourth unit would be a PWR or BWR with a power output of 1,000 to 1,800 MWe.

Onkalo waste repository

After the Finnish Nuclear Energy Act was amended in 1994 to specify that all nuclear waste produced in Finland must be disposed of in Finland, Olkiluoto was selected in 2000 as the site for a (very) long-term underground storage facility for Finland's spent nuclear fuel.

The facility, named "Onkalo" ("cave" or "cavity") is being built in the granite bedrock a few miles from the Olkiluoto power plants. The municipality of Eurajoki issued a building permit for the facility in August 2003 and excavation began in 2004.

The plans for the facility consist of four phases:

  • Phase 1 (2004–09) will focus on excavation of the large access tunnel to the facility, spiraling downward to a depth of 420 metres (1,380 ft).
  • Phase 2 (2009–11) will continue the excavation to a final depth of 520 metres (1,710 ft). The characteristics of the bedrock will be studied in order to adapt the layout of the repository.
    • Around 2012, Posiva Oy, the agency responsible for the facility's construction, plans to submit an application for a license to construct the repository and any adaptations it requires. This is expected to take up to three years.
  • Phase 3, the construction of the repository, is expected to begin about 2015.
  • Phase 4, the encapsulation and burial of areas filled with spent fuel, is projected to begin in 2020.

The Onkalo repository is expected to be large enough to accept canisters of spent fuel for around one hundred years, i.e. until around 2120. At this point, the final encapsulation and burial will take place and the access tunnel backfilled and sealed.

Danish director Michael Madsen has co-written and directed a feature-length documentary Into Eternity where the initial phase of the excavation is featured and experts interviewed. The director's special emphasis is on the semantic importance of marking the depository as dangerous for future generations.

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