Power lines criss-crossing outside Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in Eurajoki, Finland. The plant’s third reactor is scheduled to start commercial energy production in 2022, over 10 years behind the original timetable. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE PROBLEMS at Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong, China, have to be taken into account also when commissioning the third reactor at Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in Eurajoki, Finland, says Tomi Routamo, the deputy director of Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK).

“Of course we’d like to see the problems and the underlying causes solved. So that the same problems won’t recur at Olkiluoto,” he commented to Helsingin Sanomat on Friday.

Olkiluoto 3 has been delayed by more than 10 years, with the reactor presently set to start commercial energy production in 2022. Taishan Nuclear Power Plant therefore became the first plant in the world to utilise the third-generation of pressurised water reactor design known as the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) in 2018.

The Chinese plant has experienced problems at least since June, according to CNN. The American news outlet reported at the time that excessive amounts of radioactive radiation have leaked into the environment.

China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the issue was caused by minor fuel-rod damage, a phenomenon, it added, was “common” and “inevitable”.

“Due to the influence of uncontrollable factors in fuel manufacturing, transportation, loading and other links, a small amount of fuel rod damage is inevitable,” read a joint statement from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA).

Électricité de France, one of the owners of the plant, said a day later the plant would have already been shut down if it was located in France.

With Olkiluoto 3 still in the test-use phase, the detected problems are not expected to have a direct impact on the schedule for its commercial start-up, despite the shared reactor type. The cause of the problems will not become topical until the reactor is transitioned to long-term, higher-output production.

Routamo stated to Helsingin Sanomat that there is currently no reason to assume the reactor itself is somehow faulty.

“At this point in time, there’s no direct reason [for delays] to be seen,” he said. “We aren’t aware of the reactor having any generic problems. There’s another reactor there with the same fuel, and no similar problems have been reported from there.”

The detected problems are unlikely to cause a major environmental catastrophe or nuclear accident, according to Routamo.

“These fuel leaks occur from time to time, also in Finland. There’s currently a small leak in Loviisa.  The reactor cleaning system and air filtration usually make sure no substantial amounts of radioactive materials get into the environment.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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