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Confidential documents reveal Finnish nuclear reactor cannot be guaranteed safe


International — Finland, August 2008 — Confidential documents obtained by Greenpeace reveal that basic safety procedures have not been followed in the construction of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) Olkiluoto 3 (0L3) in Finland. Greenpeace is calling for an immediate end to construction work on the reactor.
Independent nuclear safety expert Dr. Helmut Hirsh [1] has reviewed the documents and concluded that the safety violations are “a clear case of bad practice and an indicator of bad safety culture”, and give “reason for serious concern regarding the resistance of the reactor building of OL3”, increasing the risk associated with external events like earthquakes, blast waves from explosions or missile impact.

The technical documents, which include Welding Procedure Specifications, show that the French builder Areva allowed welding work to be carried out for more than a year without approved procedures. The quality of welds has not been verified and test specimens from each batch of welds were not collected. Given that there were and still are no qualified personnel supervising the welding, the lack of standards is even more alarming.

“While nuclear power is inherently unsafe, the unsound safety culture existing under the French contractor Areva and its subcontractors threatens to significantly exacerbate the risks related to this nuclear power plant. This is not a cookie factory -- building a nuclear installation demands the upmost caution. Neglect of safety standards can be disastrous,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Finland.

This is the latest in a series of errors in the construction of Olkiluoto 3, a French designed EPR. Even though work only began in 2005, the EPR reactor in Finland is more than two years behind schedule, costs have doubled since the initial estimate and more than a thousand problems have been reported including poor quality concrete, defective welding on the containment and key components not meeting the required criteria [2]. At the end of July, a fire at the construction site caused extensive damage to the outer and inner wall structures of the reactor building [3].

Both existing EPRs being built – Olkiluoto 3 and Flamanville 3 in France – are beset with safety problems, delays and spiralling costs. Despite this, French President Sarkozy and the state owned companies Areva and Électricité de France (EDF) are trying to sell French reactors to numerous countries including to Brazil, Canada, China, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

Nuclear energy undermines the solutions to climate change by diverting urgently needed resources away from the true renewable and energy efficiency solutions. Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution blueprint [4] shows that renewable energy, and greater energy efficiency can deliver half of the world’s energy needs by 2050, without nuclear power.

Greenpeace has been covering the construction of Olkiluoto 3 and other problems at Areva plants through its dedicated nuclear weblog Nuclear Reaction.


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