Safety watchdog issues warning on Finland nuclear project

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Finland’s nuclear safety watchdog says that the Fennovoima consortium does not yet have the know-how needed for the design of a safe nuclear power plant.

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority on Friday submitted its preliminary safety evaluation of the proposed Fennovoima power plant to the nation's Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

The authority says that Fennovoima, which wants to build its first facility at Hanhikivi near the west-coast town of Rauma, must beef up its organization and leadership system, as well as the security plans for the proposed plant. The authority says there must be design changes to meet Finnish safety standards to cope with potential dangers at the plant site such as an airplane crash, flooding, fire or a serious accident.

Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority Director General Petteri Tiippana says the consortium must concentrate on strengthening these areas in order to be ready for the construction permit phase. He added that the company must present the authority with comprehensive documentation on the proposed facility’s safety that is complete enough to be decided on in one step.

Tiippana says the tougher demands are aimed at preventing the kinds of problems faced by the still-incomplete Olkiluoto 3. That project, by the experienced nuclear utility TVO, is far behind schedule and over budget.

`A big, demanding job'

In Tiippana’s view, Fennovoima still has plenty of work to do in improving its management structure. He points out the deadline for the firm to file its construction permit application is just over a year away.

Tiippana says that another important demand involves instructing and guiding the planned supplier of the plant, the Russian state-owned firm Rosatom, about Finnish practices and demands regarding plant design.

“This is a big, demanding job, which requires know-how,” he told Yle.

Tiippana says that the authority is putting other companies and agencies involved on notice that its demands may have scheduling repercussions.

The Finnish government is expected to reconsider Fennovoima’s decision-in-principle this summer or autumn, in light of major changes in plans since the project originally received a green light.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.