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The key objective of the research activities of TVO is to support the safe operation of the nuclear power plant units, as well as the acquisition and renewal of operating licences, through production of high-quality technical knowledge, and to validate data and calculations for the needs of and use by the plant units.

TKtoiminnan_kokonaiskulut_eng.pngModernization and modification work carried out at the plant units, as well as following and using new technology, also create research needs. In 2017, measures based on safety assessments have been carried out at the plant. These measures have also resulted in the creation of new research areas. Changes made to national regulations (YEL, VNA and YVL guides) have been taken into account in the definition of research projects. Storage, handling, and final disposal of waste comprise another important research area. The development activities related to the safe final disposal of spent fuel by Posiva Oy still remains the most significant objective of research for TVO as we approach the 2020s.

TVO is an important nuclear sector research and development organization

The total costs of TVO’s research and development operations were EUR 22.8 million. The figure includes nuclear waste management research and development costs, of which Posiva’s share was EUR 18.4 million. In addition to these, approximately ten man-years were spent by TVO on operations relating to various R&D projects.

TVO is the biggest contributor to the financing of national public research programs on nuclear power plant safety (SAFIR2018) and nuclear waste management (KYT2018). In 2017, TVO paid a total of EUR 7.2 million in research fund-related contributions to the Finnish State Nuclear Waste Management Fund. TVO also participated in the steering and monitoring of the programs through the work of 27 experts.

Key research projects

As concerns the life cycle management and modernization projects of the OL1 and OL2 reactors, primary focus areas for research operations in 2017 included aa study into RPV damage mechanisms, development of piping calculations and analyses, as well studies related to the plant structures, and R&C efforts carried out together with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in the field of I&C ageing.

Research in I&C technology focuses on the solutions required for the modernization of OL1 and OL2 and the construction of OL3. Primary research targets include the adoption and licensing of digital I&C technology. In 2017, TVO coordinated a research project on the assessment of the long-term strength of dissimilar joints in the main steam pipes, carried out together with the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes) and other industrial companies. The total duration of project is three years.

Fuel research helps ensure continued safety. The research aims at safe reactor operation, good fuel economy, and safe final disposal of spent fuel. Fuel research is TVO’s most important area of international research cooperation, which requires special competence, available testing reactors, and hot cell studies. The best option to obtain all of these is international cooperation. Research further specifies and validates the safe use of the fuel and accident safety margins with a higher burnup. The behavior of fuel in storage and after final disposal is another important field of study. TVO also participates in the international OECD-NEA Studsvik Cladding Integrity Project (SCIP III) to investigate the behavior of fuel rods during various transients.

The processing and final disposal of operating waste, as well as the long-term safety of final disposal operations (VLJ repository) constitute an important research area at the nuclear power plant. The review of the monitoring results from the Olkiluoto operating waste repository was carried over into 2017 from the previous research and monitoring programme period in order to reform the programme and make it possible to adopt it in 2018.

TVO also actively participates in the work of more extensive international cooperation networks and research projects. TVO is a member of the European NUGENIA association and involved in the management of Euratom’s Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNE TP). The purpose of these organizations is to steer and carry out European research and development in the field of fission energy, focusing on existing reactors, that is, GenII and GenIII nuclear power plants. Furthermore, TVO participates in the Swedish Energiforsk reactor technology research program, the main topics of which are concrete structures, I&C, electrical components and reactor circuit components, as well as materials and vibration management.

TVO supports the development of new research infrastructure in Finland and Europe. New experimental technology is being built into the Jules Horowitz material testing reactor. It can be used for reactor material and fuel research required by modern nuclear facilities, supporting the development of new reactor types over the next few decades. According to plans, the research reactor will be started during 2021.