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Severe problems in the design of Olkiluoto reactor control systems

06.05.2009 Lauri Myllyvirta

Leaked communication between the Finnish nuclear regulator STUK and the constructor of Olkiluoto AREVA has revealed that there are severe problems with designing the control systems of the world’s largest, prototype nuclear reactor. Four years after start of construction, Finnish authorities are yet to receive design documents that would show how the basic principles of nuclear safety are going to be met. Fulfillment of these requirements should have been a precondition to the construction permit of the reactor, which was granted in 2005. Environmental groups are calling for cancellation of the construction permit.

Read the full letter

Greenpeace energy campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta said: “Greenpeace warned already in 2005 that the design of the French prototype reactor, due for construction in Olkiluoto, was completely unfinished and compliance with nuclear regulation could not be ascertained. Areva has taken full advantage of the naïveté of Finnish authorities, cutting corners at every phase of construction.”

According to STUK, “the attitude or lack of professional knowledge” of representatives of Areva “prevent progress in resolving the concerns. Therefore, evident design errors are not corrected.” Even the buyer of the reactor, TVO, says that taking into account the delays the project has run into, the design of these safety systems should have been finished a few years ago.

Olkiluoto 3 is was sold to Finns as the world’s safest nuclear reactor, but apparently the safety features only existed in Areva brochures. Electronic control systems are the most complex and important part of a nuclear power plant. They control everything in the reactor – power levels, control rods, cooling system etc. They should be able to function in all conditions and to handle different accident situations.

The extremely concerned and strict tone of Mr. Laaksonen’s comments is strongly underscored by the fact that only four months before he sent the letter, in August 2008, he said on Finnish TV: “Areva and the companies behind it are still the world’s strongest nuclear supplier. They still have the world’s best and safest product. We have no reason to doubt that or doubt their sincerity.”

Myllyvirta continued: “It is completely unacceptable that the companies and authorities have grappled with this problem for over a year without telling anything to the public. Once again, it took an investigative journalist to uncover the problems. Mistakes made in the construction of the prototype reactor are not a private matter of the companies – people have the right to know. We demand full disclosure of all the problems that have piled up during construction.”

energy campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta: +358 50 3625 981

Briefings on Olkiluoto 3 and nuclear power