No light in the tunnel

Written by  Martin Arnold

It was the great hope of the nuclear industry at the turn of the millennium. The new Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland was meant to liberate the ailing economic thanks to improved safety.


The marketing brochure from the nuclear power plant operator Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) bears the flattering title "Well-being with nuclear electricity". This is also what the builders of the latest Olkiluoto-3 nuclear power plant, a so-called Generation 3 reactor, wanted to confirm. But this has backfired, and it is therefore very likely that the industry will no longer want to any build any more nuclear power plants – these Babylonian construction projects are just too complex. This is what the French industrial groups Areva and Siemens, who are jointly building Olkiluoto-3, are now experiencing as neither the timeline nor the costs are under control. One clear response to this was the mass job lay-offs announced by Areva in May 2015. It is still unclear when the nuclear power plant will go into operation. The deal is good for Finland because the builders had already agreed to build a turnkey nuclear power plant by 2011 at the latest at a cost of three billion euros. In the meantime, the plant will go into operation at the end of 2018 at the earliest and will have eaten up between nine and 11 million euros by then.  
The  Olkiluoto-1 and -2 nuclear power plants went into operation in 1979 and 1982 respectively and have been continuously upgraded since then so they each have an output of 880 megawatts, instead of the initial 660. As in Sweden, Finnish electricity consumption is nearly twice as high as in Switzerland. Many houses are heated with electricity, and alternative energies from the sun and wind are hardly worth considering. Natural gas, coal, peat and oil have their part to play in the energy supply, but all contribute to CO2 pollution of the atmosphere. Now – according to the Finish energy concept – more nuclear energy should replace the carbon-containing fuels. But how? While a project is in the works for a fourth nuclear power plant at Olkiluoto, no investors have been found yet. Even Russian participation is no longer on the table – not least because of the current political tensions. Finland also happens to be dependant on energy supplies from Russia. The increasingly more difficult political environment has made the Finns even more determined to become independent when it comes to energy supply.

Bo Qiang Lin, Economist, China: "Do we have an alternative?"

Ortwin Renn, Professor of Environmental and Technology Studies, Germany: "It's about acceptance."

 

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