Why two European nuclear reactors will be 7 years late and triple the cost of the same Chinese reactors

The original contract between TVO and Areva-Siemens signed in 2003 envisioned the 1700 EPR nuclear plant would cost € 3.2 billion, with a completion date of 2009.

This would have been about $4.3 billion which is a bit more than the $3.8 billion cost of each of the two EPR reactors in China. The chinese EPR reactors appear to be completing on time and budget. They are identical european nuclear reactor designs. Most of the construction is using large modules and heavy equipment. There is not that much labour involved.

TVO announced in December 2011 that it anticipated the 1600 MWe plant to begin commercial operation in August 2014, some five years later than originally planned. By that same year, the anticipated costs of the plant had ballooned to €8.5 billion, according to data released by Areva. In July 2012, the company declared that the plant unit “will not be ready for regular electricity production in 2014.

The instrumentation and control (I and C) architecture of the Flamanville 3 EPR were only declared satisfactory by the ASN regulator in April 2012 and enable it to lift the reservations it expressed in October 2009.

In 2009, Areva has blamed the Finnish utility company, Teollisuuden Voima, which ordered the reactor, for the delays (up to that point). But the Finnish safety authority has said that Areva outsourced a number of aspects of the construction to unqualified subcontractors, making it responsible for a number of the problems.

The plants were about 80% complete in 2009, when the instrumentation and control (the electronic nervous system) had to be reworked.

The most recent delays appear to be the need to fix issues from the stress testing of the design.

Areva was able to supply the Chinese reactors with the updated instrumentation and control without schedule disruption.

The delay in completing the reactor stems from EDF’s review of how much work is left to be done as well as a decision to hold regular public site meetings and change management and supervision of the project, according to EDF’s statement.

China has no public meetings. China performed a review of its facilities and decided what to fix.

The State Council approved the “12th 5-year Plan for Nuclear Safety and Radioactive Pollution Prevention and Vision for 2020”, compiled by the Ministry of Environment. It suggested that China will need to spend RMB 80 billion ($13 billion) on improving nuclear safety at 41 operating and under construction reactors over the next three years.

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