On 6 September Olkiluoto 3’s reactor dome, which has a diameter of 47 m and weighs 210 tons, was hoisted into place by two of the world’s most powerful cranes, thus marking the end of civil works on the new plant and an important milestone in its construction for Finnish utility TVO. But the project has been dogged by delays and an on-going dispute between TVO and the Areva-led consortium building the plant.

The erection of the dome required several months of preparatory work inside the reactor building, the inner section of which is now completely covered. It will be sealed by a weld around its circumference and covered with 7000 tons of concrete.

‘Olkiluoto 3 is the first third generation plant in the world with a fully sealed reactor building. With the end of the civil works phase all that remains is to install the pipes and commission the plant’ said Jean-Pierre Mouroux, Areva’s general manager for the project. The plant – with the world’s first EPR reactor – is due to be commissioned in 2012.

The installation of the dome came just days after Areva noted in its first half report that work at the site was progressing slower than planned and that it would only start on the final phase of construction when TVO had agreed to a number of contract amendments proposed by the Areva-Siemens consortium that is constructing the plant. Areva made a provision of r550 million in the first half of 2009 to cover the additional costs and uncertainties relating to the project. As a result Areva’s operating income for the first half of 2009 fell to Euros 16 million, down 97 % compared to 2008.

The comments from Areva are the latest development in the dispute between the EPC consortium and TVO, which Areva and Siemens allege has caused delays to the project by not deploying adequate resources and not processing documents delivered by Areva-Siemens quickly enough.

‘The fact that the client TVO has not yet implemented the specific measures for speeding up the work, which were agreed upon in June 2008, is causing delays and additional costs’ said Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva. ‘Areva has sent proposals to TVO in order to get back to methods of execution that are in line with usual practices for major projects. We will only commence the final phases of the works when TVO has agreed upon the proposals that have been made or issued contract amendments that provide for the requested modifications.’

In a statement on 1 September, TVO said that Areva had not presented it with any conditions for the continuation of work on Olkiluoto 3. ‘According to the fixed-price turnkey contract, the Areva-Siemens consortium is responsible for the construction and commissioning of the plant unit and for the project schedule’ said TVO.

‘We were surprised to read the information Areva released’ said Jarmo Tanhua, president and CEO of TVO. ‘TVO has complied with the plant contract and valid nuclear safety methods and expects also Areva to do so. The schedule for the construction site is challenging and Areva’s public speculation about stopping the works does not make it any easier to keep to it.’