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Nuclear Safety Standards Violated in Olkiluoto

12.07.2006 Lauri Myllyvirta

Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has today published a report on the deficient concrete of the base slab of the reactor under construction in Olkiluoto. Greenpeace is shocked by the complete failure of quality control revealed by the report.

Greenpeace media advisory, July 12, 2006

The French supplier Areva and its subcontractors have clearly violated nuclear safety standards and the orders of Finnish officials and tried to cover up the problems.
It is also alarming that STUK only found out about the problems with five months’ delay. According to the report, the concrete base slab does not fulfill safety criteria, but it seems that STUK is willing to revise the specifications rather than require costly improvements.

The report lists inadequate training of subcontractors and choosing the cheapest, incompetent suppliers as reasons for the problems. It seems that Areva is severely compromising safety in order to drive down costs. STUK should put an end to these practices.

While the report is strong and shocking in details, Greenpeace is disappointed by the conclusions. Seems STUK has no plan of how to prevent similar mistakes in the future. There is no indication of how to address the risks represented by the porous base slab in possible accidents are to be addressed. All in all, the problems unveiled by the base slab problems will apparently be pushed aside because of time pressure. The Finnish investor TVO announced the day before yesterday that the construction is already one year behind schedule when the construction has been going on for a year, mainly because designing the reactor is lagging behind. It seems that checking Areva’s plans is taking up most of STUK’s time, leaving insufficient resources for quality control.

A report commissioned by Greenpeace in 2005 anticipated the problems related to the extremely short timeframe that STUK had to assess the safety of the reactor design. STUK made a world record by licensing the reactor in 12 months before the plant was given a construction license in January 2005. The reactor design was unfinished and the license assumed that the design could be finished in step with construction. Greenpeace warned that STUK does not have sufficient resources to oversee both construction and planning. The problems with concrete are a first indication that this consern was well based.

Greenpeace will commission a report on the safety problems from an international expert. The report will reassess the data that STUK has used in its report.

STUK Investigation report