Newbuild: Hanhikivi-1 Construction Pushed Back to 2023

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Fennovoima announced this week that it expects to start nuclear construction on its Hanhikivi-1 newbuild in the summer of 2023, and to start commercial operation in 2029, five years after the initial target. The Finnish developer also announced that the Russian-supplied VVER-1200 is slated to cost €7 billion-€7.5 billion ($8.5 billion-$9.1 billion), up from the most recent estimate of €6.5 billion-€7 billion. This news came in an Apr. 28 update to the Hanhikivi-1 construction license application, six years after the application was first submitted to Stuk, Finland's nuclear safety regulator (NIW Jul.10'15). The design of the VVER-1200's nuclear steam supply system remains nearly identical to the twin VVER-1200s at the Leningrad 2 reference plant in Russia, but the past six years have seen considerable changes within Fennovoima itself and in its capacity to process the enormous amount of safety documentation required by Stuk. "The basic difference in design is that it is now fully compliant with the codes, standards and requirements of the Finnish ecosystem," Fennovoima CEO Joachim Specht told Energy Intelligence in an Apr. 29 interview. "There were some design changes in building layout, but of course we didn't change the systems." By next summer Fennovoima now hopes to receive a construction license, and to start pouring nuclear safety concrete a year later, in the summer of 2023. "Some site activities -- a detailed design of the pit excavation, for example -- requires, to some extent, the construction license," explained Specht. Sources in Finland believe the new schedule is achievable, even though both Fennovoima and Stuk must still process an enormous amount of documentation, most notably from the preliminary safety analysis report (PSAR). PSAR documentation started "at about the end of 2017," one knowledgeable Finnish industry source told Energy Intelligence. This is now "almost done," including some 300 PSAR "subdocuments," each of which "is almost as thorough as the final safety analysis report of Olkiluoto-3," the Finnish EPR newbuild that received a construction license in 2005 and that is still under construction (NIW Mar.26'21). A New 'Ecosystem' That's an eye-popping comparison, and shows how much the Finnish nuclear regulatory "ecosystem" has changed over the past 15 years. The Olkiluoto-3 disaster convinced many in Stuk that its review of the project's EPR was far too cursory, particularly as the EPR in the construction license application was "more or less conceptual," said the industry source. "Now there is a very different attitude at Stuk: they have much less trust of the suppliers." Both Fennovoima and Stuk have strained to adapt to this technically challenging review process. Fennovoima was created by a handful of Finnish power consumers in 2007, becoming the country's third nuclear operator but something of an outsider compared to the existing operators, Fortum and TVO, according to the source. "The old organizations offer a safe continuity" for their employees and Fennovoima's "site far in the north is not of interest to the persons and their families who live in the capital region of Finland," he explained in an email. Stuk, meanwhile, has seen many of its senior experts who were involved with Olkiluoto-3 retire, leaving a less experienced workforce (NIW Apr.26'19). "They are moving very slowly in Fennovoima," said the industry source, and "even more slowly in Stuk." "As the design work progresses, the amount of information to be reviewed will increase at Fennovoima," Fennovoima Utility Operations Director Janne Liuko wrote in an Apr. 12 blog post explaining the developer's new system to progress the work. "We have refined our approach to design reviews. To ensure that we focus our reviews on the right things, we split the review into three areas: plant safety, operational economy, and feasibility. These areas have predefined criteria to fulfill for each stage of the project." The PSAR subdocuments are prepared by RAOS Project, the Finland-based subsidiary of Rosatom that has the engineering, procurement and construction contract for Hanhikivi-1. They are then reviewed by Fennovoima before being submitted to Stuk. Those submissions began in 2019, but there's much still to do. Of the circa 300 PSAR subdocuments anticipated, to date Stuk has approved less than 100. Supply Chain Reversals Major issues on the Russian side are also a factor, including an initial lack of staffing and preparation to respond to the Finnish regulatory regime (NIW Jan.4'19; NIW Nov.2'18). And Hanhikivi'1-s instrumentation and control (I&C) supply has gone through multiple tenders and managers. In June 2017, Titan-2, RAOS Project's privately-owned main contractor responsible for procurement and construction, and at that time also for managing I&C, selected UK-based Rolls-Royce and France's Schneider Electric as the preferred I&C suppliers. But this fell apart, and the work was retendered and awarded to Framatome and Siemens (NIW Oct.4'19). In a curious twist Framatome then acquired both Schneider Electric and Rolls-Royce's I&C division (NIW Dec.11'20). This has done little to calm the drama with Hanhikivi-1's I&C supply chain. "Not everything went according to plan last year: the progress of instrumentation and control system design has been regrettably slow," Engineering Director Petri Jyrala complained in RAOS Project's 2020 Annual Report. "This influences the plant’s technical design, its progress, and the review of the design documentation. I&C has already been taken into account in the building layout design, however, and the design includes the space reservations required for I&C and electrical equipment." These problems almost certainly led to the decision announced by RAOS Project on Apr. 13 to shift overall I&C authority from Titan-2 to Rosatom's I&C subsidiary, Rusatom Automated Control Systems. This ostensibly puts I&C supply on firmer footing, although the industry source noted that "it was very strange" that Titan-2 was ever involved, given its inexperience with I&C. Titan-2 remains "the constructor of the plant," said Fennovoima CEO Specht, who said he does not intend to change that. Phil Chaffee, London

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