The Finnish Nuclear Energy Act passed in 1987 requires that if an energy company gets a political permit for a new nuclear facility, it still needs to apply for a construction permit and later on for an operating permit from the government. In February 2005 the Finnish government issued a construction lisence, after a fast and undemocratic lisencing procedure.
In February 2005 the Finnish government granted TVO a construction permit for the Olkiluoto 3. The decision was based on a safety review, lisencing conductec by the Finnish Nuclear and Radiation Safety Authority (STUK) in just one year. Taking into account that Olkiluoto3 is the first European Pressurised Reactor to be constructed and a first Generation III reactor of this type, the time used for the lisencing can be considered remarkably – and worryingly – short.
It seems like the underlying economical and political pressure to finnish this project in a record time is leading to compromises in the area of nuclear safety.
The first indication of this appeared in May 2004. The lisencing process in Finland had hardly started when it appeared that the manufacturing of the pressure vessel had already started (Nucleonics Week, Volume 45, Number 20, 13 May 2004). The plant didn’t have a construction permit and it didn’t have a safety approval from the Finnish nuclear regulator, but the manufacturing of a significant component had already started. It seems like the role of STUK at this point was to be a rubber stamp.
Public voice silenced
The public has not been given a real change to participate in the project after the parliament vote. The stakeholders interested in the project had to hand out their statements about the EPR, and whether it meets the Finnish safety criteria, to the Ministry of Trade and Industry by the end of April 2004. This is despite the fact that at the time it was already clear and also stated by STUK that the EPR model as such would not meet the Finnish safety criteria and that it had to be developed to do so. What was not known was how the Framatome ANP is going to meet the challenges. Therefore interested parties had to hand out their statements on the EPR before knowing how the safety defects are supposed to be met.