Europe’s largest nuclear reactor entered regular production in Finland after eighteen years of construction and several delays in its start date. The next-generation European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), known as Olkiluoto 3, already produces around 14% of Finland’s electricity and is expected to remain operational for at least the next 60 years, according to its operator, TVO.
Construction of the reactor, led by the French consortium Areva-Siemens, was announced in 2003 and was originally scheduled to go into commercial production in 2009.
Olkiluoto 3: Europe’s largest nuclear reactor in service after 14 years of delays
As reported by the AFP agency, this EPR was designed to relaunch the European nuclear industry after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and was promoted as offering greater power and better safety. However, several EPR projects have been plagued with multi-billion dollar cost overruns and delays. At the end of 2021, EDF, France’s state energy group, announced another six-month delay in the construction of a new reactor in Flamanville, France.
Nuclear technology has seen renewed popularity as a way to reduce carbon emissions, and some have criticized Germany’s decision to increase its reliance on coal in a bid to manage the war-induced energy crisis in Ukraine. TVO CEO Jarmo Tanhua hailed the Olkiluoto 3 reactor as a major trump card for Finland, but its reliance on nuclear power has also been criticized.
In contrast to the move celebrated in Finland, Germany shut down its last three nuclear reactors on Saturday, marking the official end of decades of nuclear power use in the country. Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power accelerated in 2011 after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident and has been popular in a country with a strong anti-nuclear movement. The Isar 2 reactor in the southeast of the country, the Neckarwestheim facility in the southwest and Emsland in the northwest were disconnected from the power grid before midnight.
The entry into commercial production of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor in Finland marks a milestone for nuclear power in Europe. However, reliance on nuclear power remains a controversial issue due to safety risks and the production of radioactive waste, and many countries are seeking renewable energy alternatives to meet their energy needs.