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Full electricity generation at Olkiluoto 3 delayed yet again

Finland's electricity supply could become tight next winter, warns Jukka Leskelä, managing director of the energy industry association.

Reactor buildings three and one at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant last November. Image: Esa Syväkuru / Yle

Nuclear power utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) has announced that the trial operation of the Olkiluoto 3 reactor (OL3) will be suspended for more than a month.

The delay means that full electricity generation will not start until December, rather than September as previously planned. The unit is expected to meet nearly one-sixth of Finland's electricity needs.

According to Jukka Leskelä, managing director of the industry lobby group Finnish Energy, Olkiluoto's third reactor will be of great importance for Finland's electricity supply, especially since the end of electricity imports from Russia a month ago.

"It's important to get the plant operational for the winter. One hopes that this new announced schedule remains in place. I think we'll get through this autumn, but we're getting into a tighter situation all the time. If there are other significant failures in the system, either in electricity import units or in production units, then the situation will be tight since we lack Russian imports and there is no gas available for electricity production as in the past," Leskelä said.

According to Leskelä, if the plant is not in operation by Christmas, that may affect the adequacy of electricity supply.

"If there's a tough winter, prices will be really high, and there may be challenges in terms of electricity supply," Leskelä warned.

The interruption of the reactor's test operations will impact the price of electricity, as full production by a reactor the size of OL3 would lower the wholesale market price.

"The delay is not major in relation to the duration of the whole project, so in that sense the financial impact is not huge. But when we're in a period of high energy prices, we would have liked the plant to be operational as soon as possible," Leskelä said.

However, he pointed out that OL3 will still produce a significant amount electricity when the test operations resume, probably in late July.

Loose material detected in turbine

"Foreign material detached from the steam guide plates was found in the turbine’s steam reheater in May," TVO said late Wednesday.

According to investigations from the plant supplier, the repair work will last until the end of July. The plant unit’s test production programme and electricity production cannot resume until after the completion of this repair work, it said.

The trial phase is to be completed in December 2022, when regular power generation will begin, according to TVO.

According to the contract, the plant supplier, the Siemens-Areva consortium, is obligated to complete the unit. The Olkiluoto 3 reactor began generating electricity for the national grid on a low-level trial basis in March.

At that point, the expectation was that regular electricity generation would begin in July. In April, that was pushed back to September.

The 1.6-gigawatt European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) was granted a construction permit in 2005. It was originally scheduled to be completed in 2009, but has faced a seemingly endless series of technical problems delays, cost overruns and legal disputes.

Last month plans to build the new Fennovoima nuclear power plant in Pyhäjoki, Northern Ostrobothnia, were abandoned. It was to have been built by a Russian state-owned nuclear power firm, Rosatom.