No safety-related obstacles for construction permit for nuclear power plant

24/01/2005

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has given a statement of position and safety evaluation to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, concerning the construction permit application for a new unit at Olkiluoto nuclear power plant. STUK does not find any safety-related obstacles for granting a construction permit for the planned unit at Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Eurajoki, owned by Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO).

TVO has applied for a construction permit to build a nuclear power plant unit based on the French-German European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR) concept. The plant’s net electric power output is approximately 1600 megawatts. The output is slightly higher than is produced by today’s largest nuclear power plant units.

The conclusion of STUK’s safety evaluation is that the new nuclear power plant unit can be built so that its operation does not pose any harm to employees or the general public through dangerous radiation. There will also not be damage to the environment or property.

Nonetheless, STUK must set some conditions. As detailed planning of the plant continues during the construction period, STUK must have guarantees of being able to continue regulating and inspecting the project. Enough time must be reserved in order for STUK’s regulatory work during the construction. More detailed plans are required of the plant’s nuclear waste management.

STUK also points out that TVO must be able to ensure that its organisation maintains an adequate level of expertise, also into the eventual operating phase of the new unit. STUK comments that Finnish society needs to commit to the maintenance of infrastructure which has safety implications, such as sufficient higher-education within the field of nuclear technology.

Improvements compared to today’s power plants

The predecessors to the new nuclear power plant unit have been the German Konvoi Pressure Water Reactor and the French N4 Pressure Water Reactor. STUK notes that compared to the predecessors, the safety of the EPR concept has improved.

Current power plant safety systems have improved due to improved subsystem integration. This means that there are many parallel subsystems and they are situated so that a fire, for example, would not destroy them all. Safety systems which replace each other are based on different technology so the same problem could not damage them. For example, in safety automation systems, both programmable (digital) and hardwired (analogue) technology is used.

The containment design of the plant has been designed with the chance of a severe reactor accident in mind. Significant emissions of radioactive material can be prevented from entering the atmosphere, even if the reactor is damaged or even in the case of a meltdown. A large aircraft crash can also be coped with.

Heavy workload for STUK

STUK started its evaluations of the plant at the end of the 1990s when TVO started a feasibility study for the construction of a new plant. In February 2001, STUK produced a preliminary safety evaluation in order for the Council of State to make a decision in principle. The preliminary designs were evaluated and larger safety questions were raised. The Council of State made its decision in principle on 17.1.2002 which was confirmed by the Finnish Parliament on 24.5.2002. Many improvements for the plant have been designed to fulfil the Finnish safety requirements.

In the year 2004, STUK has used nearly 30 man-years of work. In support of its own review and inspection work, STUK has contracted independent expert evaluations from Finnish and non-domestic expert organisations.

The statement of position safety evaluation and and its attachments are available in STUKs www pages: The statement of position and safety evaluation.

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