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IAEA Mission Says Finland's Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant shows strong safety commitment, sees opportunities for improvements

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  IAEA Mission Says Finland's Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant shows strong safety commitment, sees opportunities for improvements
Finland, Mar 17 (Just Earth News): An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Finland's Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant demonstrated a strong commitment to safety and noted that further improvements could be achieved as plans to expand the facility are implemented.

The Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) concluded a 17-day mission today to assess operational safety at the plant’s two 880 MW boiling water reactors, which are operated by Finnish company Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) and were connected to the grid in 1978 and 1980. A new pressurized water reactor and spent fuel final repository that are being constructed on the site were not part of the review. 

OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA’s Safety Standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate.

Nuclear power produced at Olkiluoto on Finland’s southwestern coast, and at Loviisa on the southern coast, accounts for about a third of Finland’s electricity production.

“The plant is going through a challenging transition period because of organizational changes required by the commissioning and future operation of both the new unit and a deep geological repository for long-term spent fuel storage on the Olkiluoto site,” said team leader Vesselina Ranguelova, a Senior Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA. “Safety is considered a priority in all decision-making processes and the plant will benefit from the recommendations and suggestions provided by the IAEA team.”

The team noted the plant management’s commitment to continuously improving the leadership, motivation and well-being of staff.

The 16-member team comprised experts from Bulgaria, the People’s Republic of China, France, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States of America, as well as four IAEA officials.

The  review covered the areas of leadership and management for safety; training and qualification; operations; maintenance; technical support; operating experience; radiation protection; chemistry; emergency preparedness and response; accident management; human, technology and organization interactions; long term operation; and probabilistic safety assessment.

The team identified a number of good practices that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including:

Strong capabilities to perform comprehensive probabilistic safety assessments to estimate risks and use the results to improve plant safety;
Active participation with other Nordic countries to share experiences in nuclear power plant operations;
Extensive support provided by the plant to research institutions on studies related to the management of potential severe accidents.         

The mission made a number of recommendations to improve operational safety at the plant, including:

The plant should evaluate the effectiveness of the recent organizational changes and implement any needed corrective actions;
The plant should enhance maintenance practices to ensure equipment deficiencies are resolved in a timely manner;
The plant should ensure that adequate resources and expertise are available to secure the safe and reliable operation of the plant beyond its original design lifetime.

The team provided a draft of the report to the plant’s management. The plant management and the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft, which will be reviewed by the IAEA. The final report will be submitted to the Finnish Government within three months.

Finland is also planning to host OSART missions over the next year at Olkiluoto 3 and the two units at Loviisa. 

“This means that the power companies and operators, TVO and Fortum, are getting a lot of support on safety and new ideas for their work from the three IAEA teams,” said Liisa Heikinheimo, Deputy Director General in the Energy Department at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. “For the Ministry, the timing of the OSART missions is good because we have operating license processes for Olkiluoto units under consideration and the OSART missions will support these as an external review.”

Plant management said it would address the areas identified for improvement and requested a follow-up OSART mission in about 18 months.

“TVO considers international peer reviews as an important element of improving nuclear safety. The results and development areas of this OSART assessment will be taken into account in TVO’s principle of continuous improvement,” said plant manager Mikko Kosonen. “The exchange of experience between experts in different fields is also a great opportunity for TVO to share our good practices and to get similar good practices from other plants.”

BACKGROUND: General information about OSART missions can be found on the IAEA Website.  An OSART mission is designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant’s overall safety status. This was the 193rd mission of the OSART programme, which began in 1982.