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TV report: Severe defects in Olkiluoto 3

13.08.2008 Lauri Myllyvirta

Finnish Broadcasting company YLE has yesterday revealed that severe, previously unpublished violations of safety procedures have taken place during the welding of the steel reinforcement of the reactor building.

Read the story on YLE webpage

Here’s a full transcript of the reportage.

Weekly current affairs program Ajankohtainen kakkonen
Broadcasted by YLE Channel 2 in Finland.
Tue Aug 12, 2008, 21:00

[From studio]
World’s largest nuclear reactor is under construction in Olkiluoto. During the course of construction, the project has encountered severe problems and an end to them is not in sight.

According to information of Ajankohtainen kakkonen, there are severe defects in building of Olkiluoto 3. Reactor has been welded for a long time without appropriate instructions. In addition, the project has not had supervisors of welding work who would meet the competence requirements.

The reactor ordered by TVO is supplied by the French company Areva. Work was suspended earlier this year at Flamanville, the other reactor construction site of the same company because of same problems that have now been detected in Olkiluoto.

Here’s the startling report by our reporter Juha Granath on the construction of the reactor.

[With reactor in the background]
The 1600 MW reactor in Olkiluoto will be the largest in the world. The company responsible for construction work is the French Bouygues. Representatives of the company do not respond to my requests for an interview.

Hundreds of people are currently working in the reactor building behind me, but we are not allowed to see what is going on. TVO says the ban on shooting inside the reactor is based on security concerns.

Bouygues’ welding coordinator during 2006-07, Tapio Kettunen sees the attitude of the managers and inadequate work instructions as the largest problems of the project.

Interviewer: Well then, how did the welders know how to weld if there were no welding procedure specifications available?
Kettunen: I don’t know.
Interviewer: So you mean they made it up while welding?
Kettunen: Certainly.
Interviewer: Didn’t you push Bouygues’ management, saying that things are not right.
Kettunen: That’s what I did all the time.

The responsibility of Finnish nuclear safety authority STUK is to make sure that agreed rules are adhered to at the world’s most demanding construction site.

Interviewer: Are you happy with what you have seen at the construction site and what has been reported to you?
Petteri Tiippana, STUK: Yes, as far as load bearing welds are concerned. But in general, already a year ago there were clear defects in the so called installation welding of steel reinforcements. Too high power and voltage settings were used when welding attachment plates. Thereafter, there haven’t been as many of these problems.
Interviewer: Not as many, but they still occur?
Tiippana: Well, I won’t say they haven’t occurred, but not as much as a year ago.

TVO started construction of Olkiluoto 3 in late 2004. The welding of steel reinforcements of concrete started during 2005. Bouygues hired in January 2005 Tapio Kettunen as their coordinator responsible for welding.

Interviewer: Did the welders have welding procedure specifications when you came in?
Kettunen: No they did not.
Interviewer: Well, did you start to prepare them?
Kettunen: Yes, I started it after half a year.
Interviewer: Before that, welding had been done without specifications?
Kettunen: Mm-m [yes].

Professor Jukka Martikainen is the foremost expert in welding in Finland. His statements are used e.g. in international disputes and court cases related to quality of welding.

Interviewer: Why is it important that a welder has the welding specification when he works?
Martikainen: There are a couple of things. They allow him to see what kind of task he is given, what kinds of welds and joints there are, how many passes, so there is this side to it that is important for performing the task.

The other thing is the metallurgical side. The welding specifications have very often, and in this kind of construction always, a lower and upper limit for heat input. If those limits are surpassed, it can result in damage. Not necessarily, but can.

Tapio Kettunen started preparing welding procedure specifications for Bouygues in spring 2006. The first specifications were submitted to Areva and TVO for approval in autumn 2006. STUK approved first specifications in the beginning of 2007. By then, welding had been going on within the reactor for a year and concrete had already been poured over some of the welds in concreting operations that took months.

Interviewer: How can this be possible?
Tiippana: That is a good question. They have considered the procedures they have followed as adequate. And they have thought that papers can be prepared afterwards.
Interviewer: And you have been aware of this?
Tiippana: No, we haven’t been. As I said there is a certain order in which these things have been found out.
Interviewer: Have you been deceived?
Tiippana: [Sigh] Well that needs to be checked very carefully, these documents need to be thoroughly evaluated. If there are doubts about the competence of these people, very need to check thoroughly if we have been lied to.

STUK required a year ago a description of Bouygues’ welding organization.

[Tiippana is looking at an organizational chart supplied by Bouygues]

Interviewer: Who is their welding coordinator?
Tiippana: It cannot be seen from this. The organizational structure is depicted here.
Interviewer: An organizational chart, but no names, only empty boxes.
Tiippana: Yes, that is correct, as well as positions.
Interviewer: Did this satisfy you?
Tiippana: It was an adequate answer in this point in time.
Interviewer: You approved this?
Tiippana: Yes we approved it.
Interviewer: You do not know who was the welding coordinator, who is the chief engineer, who is responsible for quality control? You do not know?
Tiippana: No the purpose of that description was not to find out that. We wanted to make sure that the subcontractor has an organizational structure that supports good quality of welding.

Interviewer: You left your position as a welding coordinator in Olkiluoto in September 2007. Why?
Kettunen: Everyone has a professional ethic. Surely everyone wants to do their best. Working there you were not allowed to do that. You were just a rubber stamp.

Numerous welders and managers from Bouygues verify what Kettunen says and tell that the welders still do not have the required welding specifications.

Interviewer: Do you thrust Bouygues?
Martin Landtman, Head of OL3 project in TVO: We thrust in the supplier of the plant and its subcontractor absolutely. That does not mean we do not control them.
Interviewer: I have a document where Bouygues’ management forbids their employee from telling you or Areva about anything that has taken place at the construction site, threatening him with an official warning.
Landtman: I would be very eager to see that document.
Interviewer: I have it here.
Landtman: I would be very eager to see it. This does not happen at a nuclear construction site.
[The document is handed over to Landtman]
Landtman: I will not read it here. I will have to look at it separately. I cannot comment on it straight away.

Tapio Kettunen prepared 11 Welding Procedure Specifications that he signed. After Kettunen left, STUK has received only one WPS for approval.

Interviewer: Kettunen’s WPSs are signed by Kettunen. Who has signed the other, latest WPS?
Tiippana: According to this, it has been written by a person with the abbreviation MJA, checked by a person called JFP and approved by a person called FXMA. Their signatures are here. [the document is shown to camera]
Interviewer: Do you have any idea who these people are?
Tiippana: No, the signatures do not say anything to me, I cannot figure out what their full names are.

Martikainen: These days, as welders change very often, and different companies are working at the same site, there are subcontractors etc., the WPSs are unconditionally required. Otherwise, the result can be even a catastrophe.

According to nuclear safety requirements, the company welding the steel reinforcements of concrete, Bouygues, must have at least one welding coordinator, who fulfills the competence requirements of the international standard ISO 14731.

Martikainen: The role of the coordinator is the more important, the more significant the facility or the project is and the larger the risks are. He bears the responsibility for and has the power over all welding. The competence requirements these days are at least a degree in engineering, very often from a technical university. And then at least three years of professional experience in welding.

When welding coordinator Kettunen, who met these strict requirements, left in September 2007, Bouygues told STUK that they have appointed two of their workers as welding coordinators. When one of them heard about the appointment, he protested in the presence of representatives of Areva, TVO and STUK.

Tiippana: The person who had been appointed declared himself that he does not have the competence required for this position. Areva, TVO and STUK all required that the situation is corrected.

The other worker appointed as welding coordinator comments:
“I was not aware that Bouygues had appointed me as a welding coordinator, and I have not worked as one for a day. I do not fulfill the requirements, I have only welded in Olkiluoto.”

Tiippana: Now a person responsible for welding has been appointed by Areva.
Interviewer: When?
Tiippana: We have received the information in March 2008.
Interviewer: None of the interviewed employees or managers of Bouygues have heard anything about this new welding coordinator called Jacques Margalida.

In Spring, Bouygues told STUK that they now have 5 welding coordinators. They were trained in April in Innova and the training took 2 weeks.

Interviewer: These people have been appointed as coordinators of welding of steel reinforcement in Olkiluoto. Do you know these men? [shows a list]
Kettunen: Yes, I know all of them.
Interviewer: And what is their competence for the work?
Kettunen: [Bursts into laughter, does not answer]
Interviewer: What is their experience in welding?
Kettunen: I guess you’ll have to ask TVO.

According to the international standard, a welding coordinator must have special technical knowledge about welding, acquired through a combination of education, practice and experience.

Interviewer: What kind of competence do these five people have in welding?
Landtman: Well, I cannot of course answer directly. But what I know is that we audit continuously the work of Areva and its subcontractors.

The Olkiluoto 3 must withstand extreme heat and radiation as well as possible terrorist attacks and human errors. The citizens have the right to demand world’s best safety from the builders of the world’s largest nuclear power plant.

The minister responsible for the official oversight of the construction of Olkiluoto 3, Mauri Pekkarinen, did not want to comment on the problems with welding today. Pekkarinen only told that he wants a report from STUK on the issue.