New York Times highlights "cautionary tale" of Olkiluoto nuclear reactor project
"Things have not gone as planned" declares reporter after visit
In its Friday edition, The New York Times carries a large feature article on the problems encountered at the Olkiluoto III construction site, building Finland's 5th nuclear reactor.
The issues of cost overruns, quality problems, and scheduling delays are well-known to Finns, but the newspaper highlights the case as a "cautionary tale" for Barack Obama's administration, which has pledged to steer the United States towards new and cleaner sources of energy.
"Things have not gone as planned" , states the reporter James Kanter after a visit to Finland.
The newspaper addresses the disputes that have arisen between the largely state-owned French contractor Areva and its client the Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) over matters at the construction site, and notes that the two parties no longer know when precisely the new 1600 MW reactor will go into service.
Originally the new plant, which was approved by Parliament eight years ago, was supposed to begin producing electricity for the national grid this year, but the latest predictions are for 2012.
The article points to many of the issues that have been widely reported in the Finnish media, over the ballooning of the budget for the venture and the delays resulting from quality control objections raised by the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK).
"A number of U.S. companies have looked with trepidation on the situation in Finland and at the magnitude of the investment there", says Paul L. Joskow, a professor of economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and renowned nuclear power expert.
Olkiluoto III may be the thrust of the article, but the writer observes that it is by no means alone in providing warning examples for the Obama administration.
The article also looks at the problems that have faced a similar venture in France, where another European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) is being built at Flamanville by a congolomerate of Areva, Siemens, and Electricité de France.
Within the United States, the nuclear industry is planning a new fleet of nuclear power stations to replace those built a generation ago, and is hoping to secure federal funding.
Kanter predicts that the setbacks encountered in Europe will be difficult to avoid across the Atlantic.
In closing, the article cites Jouni Silvennoinen, a project manager at Olkiluoto, who declares - in spite of all the problems faced - that "We have had it easy here".
As the article notes, "Olkiluoto is at least a geologically stable site. Earthquake risks in places like China or the United States or even the threat of storm surges mean [that] building these reactors will be even tricker elsewhere".
Previously in HS International Edition:
Nuclear authority angered by shortcomings in reactor construction (3.11.2008)
Olkiluoto III start-up delayed again - reactor could go on stream only in 2012 (17.10.2008)
Greenpeace denounces Finland´s nuclear energy programme (17.9.2008)
TVO: Welding problems will not cause further delays to completion of Olkiluoto III (13.5.2009)
Costs of delay in construction of Olkiluoto III approaching price of new reactor (29.1.2009)
TVO seeks EUR 2.4 billion in damages for Olkiluoto nuclear reactor delays (28.1.2009)
Siemens to give up nuclear joint venture with Areva (27.1.2009)
Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant (Wikipedia)
New York Times: In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble
Teollisuuden Voima (TVO)