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IAEA reviews safety at Olkiluoto 3 ahead of start-up

The operator of the first-of-a-kind EPR reactor nearing start-up in Finland has shown a commitment to safety, an expert team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded. The team also identified areas for further enhancements as Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) prepares to put Olkiluoto unit 3 online later this year.

A Pre-Operational Safety Review Team (Pre-OSART) yesterday concluded an 18-day mission to assess operational safety at the 1600 MWe reactor at Olkiluoto, on Finland’s southwestern coast. The 11-member team comprised experts from Belgium, China, France, the UK, the USA as well as IAEA officials.

Pre-OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA’s Safety Standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate. The IAEA said such reviews are “not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant’s overall safety status”.

The review covered the areas of leadership and management for safety; training and qualification; operations; maintenance; technical support; operating experience; radiation protection; chemistry; emergency preparedness and response; accident management; and commissioning.

The Pre-OSART mission team identified a number of good practices at Olkiluoto 3 that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally. These include the plant developing and implementing “an efficient system for improving knowledge and skills of staff members”. The plant has developed and validated a unique method for performing suspended solids analysis using a microscope, imaging software and a digital camera. TVO has also introduced a system for systematically assessing nuclear safety culture in the plant supplier organisation during construction and commissioning.

The mission made several recommendations to improve operational safety at Olkiluoto 3, including plant management setting “appropriate expectations, communicate them to staff and reinforce them in the field”. The team also suggested the plant improve the implementation of its foreign material exclusion programme, aimed at preventing potential damage from the introduction of residue, dirt, debris and other substances. In addition, it said fire protection and prevention arrangements at the plant should be enhanced.

Team leader Yury Martynenko, Senior Nuclear Safety Officer in the IAEA’s Operational Safety Section, said: “Constructing a large, modern nuclear power plant designed for 60 years of operation requires senior leaders to adopt a sustained commitment to nuclear safety for every level of the organisation. The Pre-OSART team has observed that commitment and has been able to offer practical ways in which it can be enhanced.”

The mission team has submitted a draft report of its finding to the plant management. The management, together with the Finnish nuclear regulator, will be able to comment on the report, a final version of which will be submitted to the Finnish government within three months.

Follow-up missions are standard components of the OSART programme and are typically conducted within two years of the initial mission. Olkiluoto 3 plant management said it would address the areas identified for improvements by the Pre-OSART and requested a follow-up OSART mission in about 18 months.

Marjo Mustonen, TVO Senior Vice President of Production, said, “Pre-OSART provides a great opportunity to have international top experts come to Olkiluoto to carry out an independent review of the safety of our new plant. Following the principle of continuous improvement, we are going to take the development suggestions made as a result of the process into account in our operation.”

Under the latest schedule for Olkiluoto 3, grid connection takes place in December, with the start of regular electricity production in May next year. The unit’s ramp-up programme will see it produce 2-4 TWh of electricity, at varying power levels between those dates.

In March 2017, the IAEA completed an Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission to the two operating 880 MWe boiling water reactors at the Olkiluoto plant. That team concluded TVO had demonstrated a strong commitment to safety and noted the plant management’s commitment to continuously improving the leadership, motivation and well-being of staff.

Source: World Nuclear News