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Nuclear power construction needs to become faster and cheaper


​​In recent years, the construction of the Olkiluoto 3 EPR Nuclear Power Plant in Finland has been widely reported worldwide. One of the journalists who have been following OL3 closely is the Financial Times Energy Editor, Andrew Ward.

OL3 EPR will be the first new nuclear power plant in Europe in over twenty years. According to Ward, the commissioning of the plant will be a significant moment for Europe.

- Because of the delays and cost over-runs, the project has been plagued by negative press coverage, Ward says.

- That is why it is so important for the whole European nuclear industry that OL3 EPR is successfully completed, so that people can see that EPR technology works and be reminded of the benefits of nuclear power in terms of energy security and carbon reduction.

Ward says that we need to learn from these setbacks so that in the future reactors can be completed more quickly and cheaply.

- Here, how successfully OL3 EPR, Flamanville and the two EPR reactors in Taishan, China, go online is considered decisively important. That way, it is hoped, doubts about the technology’s security and reliability will be dispelled, Ward tells about the nuclear power debate in the UK where they are preparing for the ERP project in Hinkley Point.

Improving energy security

Ward thinks that in the global energy transition nuclear power involves both possibilities and risks.

The possibilities lie in the fact that nuclear power generates carbon-free, zero-emission and reliable energy. It satisfies the growing global demand for energy, improves energy security and helps tackle climate change.

On the other hand, nuclear power risks losing out to wind and solar on price.

- If nuclear power is to take its place in the new energy system and ensure its position alongside electricity from renewable energy sources, reactor construction has to be cheaper and faster in the future. And waste management has to be tackled, too – as it has been in Finland, Ward says.

Waste management must be solved

Thanks to the ONKALO spent fuel repository, Finland is a global pioneer in the final disposal of nuclear waste. Ward is impressed by the solution being employed at Olkiluoto.

- As well as the high costs and safety requirements involved in nuclear power, another big problem for the industry is the question of what to do about nuclear waste. Finland is ahead of the rest of the world in resolving this issue with the construction of the ONKALO facility.

Andrew Ward, Energy Editor, Financial Times
(Photo: Financial Times)