MOSCOW – Three weeks after visiting the site of the future Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant near the remote small municipality of Pyhäjoki in northern Finland, I caught up again with Fennovoima Project Director Minna Forsström at the ATOMEXPO 2016 forum in Moscow on May 30 where she told New Europe about the Finnish company’s cooperation with the Russian atomic behemoth Rosatom.
Despite tensions between Brussels and Moscow, Russia and Finland are closely working together to build the plant by 2024. “We have always had good cooperation with the Russians,” she said. “In one way it’s also an advantage that it’s a next-door neighbour. St Petersburg is quite close. That helps also. The designers are in St Petersburg so that’s a great advantage. It’s a three-hour trip by train from Helsinki,” she said, adding that working together accelerates the process.
For the construction of Hanhikivi 1, Finland has chosen a Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactor with enhanced safety generation “3+”.
The same type of reactor with upgraded safety features, including passive cooling, is used in the innovative Power Unit 6 in Novovoronezh, which we visited during ATOMEXPO.
The VVER reactor is also the right size for Finland’s demand, she said. “They have produced more than 50 of the so-called VVER family reactors so it’s a VVER product which is customised for the Finnish requirements with a capacity of 1200 MW,” Forsström said.
“I think the biggest advantage is that it is well-tested,” she said, adding the VVER has a good safety track record. “Also its basic design is there so that should speed up the process as such and gives confidence to the Finnish stakeholders here that the we can really do this,” the Fennovoima Project Director said in Moscow.
The first concrete phase will be in 2018. But Forsström explained, “We need to – and have to – start building the reactor itself before we have this construction license”. “So we can start the reactor manufacturing in Russia next year. We will start producing the first components,” she said.
Rosatom will supply the Finnish plant with nuclear fuel for approximately the first ten years of operation; after that it can be freely tendered. “We believe that it’s good to have the plant and especially the first launch from the same origin so basically it’s Rosatom as a corporation responsible for matching these two and then get the plant running,” Forsström said. “It helps us and it basically helps the Russians as well that they have a familiar partner there.”
Regarding the licensing agreements with Finnish regulator STUK, Fennovoima and Rosatom are in constant consultations. “We’re doing the checking of the auditing of potential suppliers and manufacturers. They’re not contracted yet but we’re doing that with the top candidates to keep up with the schedule,” Forsström said.
One of the biggest challenges is to do the licensing in Finland, she said. But Fennovoima is not leaving it to STUK. “We have incorporated our requirements, of course, based on the STUK requirements,” she said. “That gives us the responsibility to check the licensing documentation through and to make sure that it’s according to Finnish law. We call it the YVL, these instructions from STUK, and, of course, we put some of our own requirements on top of the package.”
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