Finnish Nuclear Plants – 10 years late, and who knows perhaps working 2018, 2019, or 2020 – who knows?

In 2005, TVO, the Finnish per company, purchased a nuclear plant as a turnkey delivery for a fixed cost from a French government-owned company called AREVA, together with the private German company Siemens AG. Commercial electricity production was originally supposed to commence in 2009, but, according to the latest schedule update, regular production at the plant unit may begin in 2019!

The plant’s construction costs are said to be triple the original costs and both TVO and the suppliers are at each others’ throat in court. So far the legal proceedings have made the lawyers extremely wealthy, with just one initial court ruling in favour of TVO, but we are still waiting for a final ruling on who pays and how much.

This can best be summed up as a totally crazy “deal” for the Finns, which is especially complicated now that another French government-owned company called EDF has taken over Avera.

A second nuclear plant is being constructed by the Russian’s Rosatom for another Finnish company called Fennovoima. This project does not yet have a construction permit but they are happily digging a huge hole in the ground. The plant start date has already been delayed by 1 year, and few Finns are betting that this will be the last delay based on the rather colourful history of “alternative truths” experienced so far by shareholders, the government and the media.

In both projects, the public sector is on the hook for quite some of the the costs and the risks of these projects. The government is providing insurance for nuclear risks, government-owned companies are shareholders, alongside many Finnish cities and municipalities. Very few private companies have stakes in thee projects because of the perceived risks.

The UK government has commissioned the Hinkley nuclear plant from Avera’s new owners, EDF. The plant will use the same technology as the TVO plant and will probably go through the same iterations as TVO.

It is clear that the lack of project management and construction skills and resources are the main causes of delays in Finland, and these will also be the same challenges faced by the UK, even though nobody in the UK government can admit this with their hands full of Brexit juggling.

The Russian company Rosatom is also having project management planning problems in Finland according to the Finnish nuclear safety regulator. At the same time they are starting work on 4 nuclear plants in Turkey and a few other places like Russia, Belarus, India, the Middle East, etc. Will they have the necessary resources needed for these massive projects which are all starting around the sawed time?

Safety is so important with these plants because you do not get a second chance when something goes wrong or a plane is crashed deliberately into a plant. Fukushima was meant to be the safest plant in the world…

… and ending up in court over regulatory demands is not a panacea for bad planning which seems to be the biggest challenge for these huge projects.

Experience so far with the above suppliers is not exactly encouraging, at a time when new clean energy solutions are falling in cost, while nuclear costs are tripling!

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