EURAJOKI, Finland (Reuters) – Finland’s long-delayed Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor is on track to start production in December 2018 as it nears a comprehensive test phase, the plant’s project director said on Thursday.
The third reactor at Olkiluoto, an island in Eurajoki on Finland’s western coast, is running almost a decade behind its original schedule, while its owner and suppliers are locked in a legal battle related to its rising costs.
However, problems at the site are now over, project director Jouni Silvennoinen from Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) said.
“We are proceeding quite well … We plan to be in full power operation by the end of next year,” Silvennoinen told Reuters in an interview at the plant.
He said suppliers Areva and Siemens are completing installation works at the reactor before a comprehensive “hot functional test” is due to start within the coming months.
The project’s total costs have ballooned from an initial estimate of 3.2 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to around 8.5 billion euros, Areva estimated in 2012.
“Our financing is on a revolving basis… but my understanding is that we are fine as we are today,” he said.
Last month, TVO received a second favorable partial decision from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in the dispute where TVO and Areva-Siemens claim billions of euros from each other.
“These two partial awards have been positive from our point of view,” Silvennoinen said. He declined to predict the final ruling, expected early next year.
OL3, a new-generation European Pressurised Reactor, is set to become Finland’s fifth and largest, and provide about 10 percent of the country’s power needs.
TVO had already planned for its next reactor, Olkiluoto 4 (OL4), but delays with OL3 complicated its permit process and in 2015, TVO decided to pull back from the project.
TVO spokesman Pasi Tuohimaa, however, said the project could come back to the table once OL3 was up and running.
TVO has invested about 100 million euros in that project.
Aside from nuclear energy, Finland also counts on coal-fired power plants to meet its energy demand and OL3’s introduction to the system will not change this balance, Tuohimaa said.
“We still need energy to balance the market. I doubt coal plants will close down. We need them for the winter. The grid needs them.”
The Finnish government last year decided halting the use of coal in power generation by 2030 to help meet EU emission reduction goals.
Both TVO executives declined to comment on the effect OL3 will have on power prices, saying existing and planned closures of Swedish reactors can make prices unpredictable.
TVO’s owners include Finnish paper companies UPM and Stora Enso as well as utility Fortum.