Unexpectedly high water content in concrete castings for the Olkiluoto 3 European pressurised water reactor (EPR), together with some faulty forgings are expected to delay the project by some 9 months.

The 1600 MW project located some 250 km north west of Helsinki had been due to begin operations in mid-2009, but the issues related to some components and site preparation are now expected to push this back until late 2009 or early 2010.

Project director Martin Landtman, said slightly too high water contents were measured in some concrete lots and consequently the operation of the on-site concrete plant was stopped in early February. There was no question that the delivered concrete would not fulfil the set strength requirements and this has been verified from cast test pieces, said Landtman. Concreting operations have now resumed.

Olkiluoto 3 is owned by Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO), a non-profit power group formed by the city of Helsinki and a number of large consumers, but the cost of the delays will have to be borne by its contractors. Areva’s

Framatome and Siemens signed a fixed-price contract for the construction of the first nuclear reactor to be built in the European Union since the early 1990s.

The latest announcement adds to the late January announcement of delays amounting to more than 6 months over issues related to detailed engineering and the need to correct deviations in the manufacture of components.

Areva in its first quarter 2006 results stated: “The 6-month delay announced at the end of December 2005 has been re-estimated at 8-9 months due to the two months failing of a Finnish company in charge of concrete works. The group will assess the potential consequences of this delay’s evolution in its 2006 financial statements.”

Advocates of the project suggest that while the delays are disappointing, they highlight the high standards of quality control and safety.