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Severe violations of safety requirements in Olkiluoto

13.08.2008 Lauri Myllyvirta

Finland, 13 August 2008 – Confidential documents obtained by Greenpeace reveal that basic safety procedures have not been followed in the construction of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) in Finland. Greenpeace is calling for an immediate end to construction work on the reactor.

Independent nuclear safety expert Dr. Helmut Hirsh [1] has reviewed the documents and concluded that the safety violations are “a clear case of bad practice and an indicator of bad safety culture”, and give “reason for serious concern regarding the resistance of the reactor building of OL3”, increasing the risk associated with external events like earthquakes, blast waves from explosions or missile impact.

The technical documents, which include Welding Procedure Specifications, show that the French builder Areva allowed welding work to be carried out for more than a year without approved procedures. The quality of welds has not been verified and test specimens from each batch of welds were not collected. Given that there were and still are no qualified personnel supervising the welding, the lack of standards is even more alarming.

“While nuclear power is inherently unsafe, the unsound safety culture existing under the French contractor Areva and its subcontractors threatens to significantly exacerbate the risks related to this nuclear power plant. This is not a cookie factory — building a nuclear installation demands the upmost caution. Neglect of safety standards can be disastrous,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Finland.

This is the latest in a series of errors in the construction of Olkiluoto 3, a French designed EPR. Even though work only began in 2005, the EPR reactor in Finland is more than two years behind schedule, costs have doubled since the initial estimate and more than a thousand problems have been reported including poor quality concrete, defective welding on the containment and key components not meeting the required criteria [2]. At the end of July, a fire at the construction site caused extensive damage to the outer and inner wall structures of the reactor building [3].

Both existing EPRs being built – Olkiluoto 3 and Flamanville 3 in France – are beset with safety problems, delays and spiralling costs. Despite this, French President Sarkozy and the state owned companies Areva and Électricité de France (EDF) are trying to sell French reactors to numerous countries including to Brazil, Canada, China, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

Nuclear energy undermines the solutions to climate change by diverting urgently needed resources away from the true renewable and energy efficiency solutions. Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution blueprint shows that renewable energy, and greater energy efficiency can deliver half of the world’s energy needs by 2050, without nuclear power.

Greenpeace has been covering the construction of Olkiluoto 3 and other problems at Areva plants through its dedicated nuclear weblog Nuclear Reaction at .

Jan Beránek, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner, +31 65 110 9558

Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace Nordic Nuclear Campaigner, +358 50 3625 981

Beth Herzfeld, Greenpeace International press officer, +44 7717 802 891

Pictures available from John Novis, Greenpeace International Picture Desk, +44 (0) 7801 615 889


[1] Dr. Helmut Hirsch has about 30 years of experience as a nuclear expert. He has worked for the Austrian Federal Government as well as for German State Government and municipal administrations. Since 1990, he has been a member of the Austrian Environment Ministry’s Nuclear Advisory Board. Recent work includes technical support for the Austrian monitoring process of the Czech Temelín nuclear power plant. He is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency expert group.

[2] Greenpeace Factsheet EPR – European Pressurised Reactor, June 2008

[3] More information on the fire

In depth briefing on the violations revealed today