Further delays to EPR nuclear projects

In late July, French utility EDF confirmed that its long-delayed nuclear reactor at Flamanville has suffered another setback due to faulty welding. Now, the company says, commissioning is not expected until the end of 2022. 

When construction of the facility started in 2007, its target launch date was 2012 – meaning that its completion is now on course to be delayed by more than a decade. In June, French nuclear safety regulator ASN ordered EDF to repair eight welds in the reactor’s containment building.

Issues with the welding were first reported in July 2018, at which point EDF had already delayed the loading of fuel until the end of this year, adding an additional €400mn to the plant’s budget. Flamanville was originally meant to cost €3.3bn, but this figure is now in excess of €10.9bn. Newly revised cost estimates for the project are expected in the coming months. 

The nuclear power station at Flamanville is one of three plants being built in Europe using next-generation European Pressurised Reactor designs. The other two are Finland’s Olkiluoto and the UK’s Hinkley Point C. 

Olkiluoto is facing costly delays of its own – Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) announced in July that it was further delaying the commercial launch of the 1.6 GW Olkiluoto 3 reactor by six months to July 2020.

Fuel will be loaded into the reactor in January and the initial connection to the grid and test period will commence in April next year, TVO said after receiving a new schedule from plant supplier Areva-Siemens. The project is already more than a decade behind schedule.

According to a statement from TVO, the latest delays at Olkiluoto are the result of ongoing modification outage work ‘not progressing as expected’.

Globally, just one EPR reactor – China’s Taishan 1 – is already operational today. A second reactor at the same site is scheduled to come online later this year.

The most recent estimates from EDF Energy – which is jointly spearheading the development of Hinkley Point C along with a Chinese partner – say that it will be at least six years until the project generates any power. If work had gone according to original, pre-construction plans, the site would have been operational more than a year ago.

Once complete, the Hinkley Point C reactor – presently the UK’s largest construction site – is expected to generate 7% of the country’s electricity. 

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