Europe’s most powerful nuclear reactor starts in Finland

HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s much-delayed and costly new nuclear reactor, Europe’s most powerful by production capacity, has completed more than a year of testing and started regular production, significantly boosting the Nordic country’s electricity self-sufficiency.

The 1,600-megawatt Olkiluoto 3 reactor was connected to Finland’s national grid in March 2022 and started regular production on Sunday. The operator Teollisuuden Voima or TVO tweeted that “Olkiluoto 3 is now complete” after a 14-year delay from the original plan.

It will help Finland meet its carbon neutrality goals and increase energy security at a time when European countries have shut off oil, gas and other energy supplies from Russia, Finland’s neighbor.

“The production of Olkiluoto 3 stabilizes the price of electricity and plays an important role in Finland’s green transition,” TVO President and CEO Jarmo Tanhua said in a statement. The company added that “the power generation volume of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant represents a significant complement to clean, domestic production.”

Construction of Olkiluoto 3 began in 2005 and was due to be completed four years later. However, the project was plagued by several technological issues that led to lawsuits. The last time a new nuclear reactor was commissioned in Finland was more than 40 years ago.

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Olkiluoto 3 is Western Europe’s first new reactor in more than 15 years. It is the first EPR plant of the new generation (European Pressurized Reactor) to be connected to the grid in Europe. It was developed in a joint venture between France’s Areva and Germany’s Siemens.

Experts estimate the final price of Olkiluoto 3 at around 11 billion euros (12 billion US dollars) – almost three times what was originally estimated. Finland now has five nuclear reactors at two power plants on the Baltic coast. Together they cover more than 40% of the country’s electricity needs.

The conservative national coalition party NCP, which won the Finnish parliamentary elections on April 2, wants to further increase the proportion of energy that the country of 5.5 million people gets from nuclear power.

NCP leader Petteri Orpo, Finland’s likely new prime minister, said during the election campaign that the new cabinet should make nuclear power “the cornerstone of the government’s energy policy”.

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