OSLO, June 6 (Reuters) - Finland’s two operating Olkiluoto nuclear reactors appear to fulfil all basic preconditions to get a 20-year lifetime extension, the director of the country’s energy department told Reuters on Wednesday.
The reactors’ licences expire by year-end but Riku Huttunen’s comments suggest they are set to stay in operation.
The Olkiluoto 1 reactor, which started operations in 1978, and Olkiluoto 2, commissioned two years later, have a combined net output capacity of 1,770 megawatts, and account for around one-sixth of Finland’s electricity needs.
“All basic preconditions seem to be fulfilled. The decision will be taken in early autumn, most likely,” said Huttunen, who heads the energy department within Finland’s economy ministry.
A final decision on the licence renewal will be made by the government, he added.
Last week, Finland’s radiation and nuclear safety authority (STUK) said it supported an application by the reactors’ owner, Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), to extend their operating licences until 2038.
STUK said Olkiluoto 1 and 2 met the safety and legal requirements that have been set for their lifetimes to be extended and approved the nuclear waste management procedures set out by TVO.
It said however that TVO must test the ageing reactors’ pressure vessels once every eight years, with the first pressure tests scheduled for 2019 and 2020.
TVO is anticipating the addition of a third, long-delayed, unit in its Olkiluoto site by 2019. Olkiluoto 3 will be one of the world’s largest reactors with a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts.
Renewing the licences for the two older reactors and adding another could help Finland reach its goal of reducing carbon emissions and getting rid of coal from power production by 2030.
The Nordic country, which depends largely on Swedish and Russian power imports, saw industrial energy needs grow by 1.7 percent last year, while net power imports hit a record high. (Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Catherine Evans )