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Finland’s new nuclear reactor: what does it mean for climate goals and energy security?

origin 1The turbine hall of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant photographed under construction in Eurajoki, southwestern Finland, 2011. ©AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Antti Aimo-Koivisto

Europe’s most powerful nuclear reactor has just started producing energy on a regular basis in Finland.

It took 14 years longer than expected, but the Olkiluoto 3 reactor is providing a major boost to the Nordic country’s electricity self-sufficiency.

The expensive reactor, which has a capacity of 1,600 megawatts, was connected to the Finnish national electricity grid in March 2022. After a test phase lasting more than a year, it started normal production on Sunday (April 16).

Proponents say the new reactor will help Finland meet its carbon neutrality goals. As well as increasing energy security at a time when European countries have cut oil and gas Russianeighbor of Finland.

“The production of Olkiluoto 3 stabilizes the price of electricity and plays an important role in the Finnish green transition“said Jarmo Tanhua, president and chief executive officer of operator Teollisuuden Voima (TVO).

The company added that “the volume of electricity production from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is a significant addition to clean domestic generation.”

Olkiluoto 3 is now producing about 14% of the country electricityand is expected to remain operational for “at least the next 60 years” according to TVO.

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Why was Finland’s new nuclear reactor so delayed?

Construction of Olkiluoto 3 started in 2005 and was scheduled to be completed four years later.

However, the project was plagued by several technological problems which led to lawsuits.

The last time a new nuclear reactor was commissioned in Finland was more than four decades ago. The Olkiluoto 3 is the first novelty from Western Europe reactor in more than 15 years.

It is the first new generation EPR, or European Pressurized Reactor, plant to be put into operation in Europe. The huge reactor was developed in a joint venture between France’s Areva and Germany’s Siemens.

Mainly due to safety concerns, nuclear power remains a controversial issue in Europe.

The launch of the Finnish reactor coincides with Germanydecided to shut down the last three remaining nuclear power plants on Saturday.

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How much did Olkiluoto 3 cost?

origin 1NCP Chairman Petteri Orpo and NCP Parliamentary Group Leader Kai Mykkanen.Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/AP

Experts have estimated the final price for Olkiluoto 3 at about 11 billion euros ($12 billion), almost triple what was initially estimated.

Finland now has five nuclear reactors in two power plants located on the banks of the baltic sea. Together, they cover more than 40% of the nation’s electricity demand.

The conservative National Coalition Party, or NCP, which won Finland’s general election on April 2, wants to increase the share of energy the country of 5.5 million gets from nuclear energy more and more.

NCP leader Petteri Orpo, Finland’s likely new prime minister, said during the election campaign that the new cabinet should make nuclear energy “the cornerstone of the government’s energy policy”.