Nuclear power’s role in Solar Economy

Nuclear power provides climate-benign, reliable and large-scale supply of electricity at a competitive and predictable costs. In 2011, Fortum generated 24.9 terawatt-hours (TWh)of nuclear power contributing to 34% of the company’s total electricity production.

Nuclear power accounts for 14% of global electricity production and 28% in the EU. After the Fukushima accident in March 2011, new investments in nuclear will be more challenging because of the increased investor risks, challenges in financing new projects and expected new safety measures. In 2011, a number of countries, including Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium, started to reconsider their standpoint towards nuclear power. Germany decided to close down all its nuclear power plants by 2022. 

Despite the uncertainty prevalent in a few countries, advanced nuclear energy is expected to prevail as an important technology in the transition towards Solar Economy. Nuclear power as a CO2-free energy technology will be needed for a long time, and its efficiency can be increased significantly in combined heat and power mode. The use of uranium energy content can also be improved considerably. 

Fortum’s nuclear power

Nuclear power plays an important role in Fortum’s climate-benign energy production. Fortum operates the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland and is a co-owner in eight reactors in Finland and Sweden.  Fortum owns 26% of Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) operating Olkiluoto nuclear power plant  in Finland and in Sweden Fortum is a co-owner in Forsmark and Oskarshamn nuclear power plants through its holdings in Forsmarks Kraftgrupp AB (26%) and OKG AB (46%).

Based on Fortum’s calculations, annually six million tonnes of CO2 emissions are avoided by producing electricity at the Loviisa nuclear power plant instead of production in a coal condensing power plant. Operating a nuclear power plant requires technology know-how and detailed safety specifications and monitoring. In 2011, nuclear power accounted for 34% of Fortum’s total electricity production.

Increasing safety and availability

In 2011, Fortum generated 24.9  terawatt-hours (TWh) of nuclear power in the Nordic countries. The company continued the capacity upgrades at the Forsmark and Oskarshamn nuclear power plants in Sweden. Moreover, Fortum decided to participate in the financing of the bidding and engineering phase of TVO’s (Teollisuuden Voima Oyj) fourth nuclear unit at Olkiluoto, Finland, with a stake corresponding to Fortum’s share in TVO. The bidding and engineering phase commenced in December 2011. 

2011 was a safe and good production year at Fortum’s Loviisa nuclear power plant. There were no nuclear or radiation incidents reaching the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) of significant events. The load factor describing Loviisa power plant’s availability was 94.3 %, which is very high by international comparison, and the plant was in full production throughout the operation cycle, except for a short production break at Unit 1. The Loviisa power plant produced 8.06 TWh of electricity, which is about 10% of total electricity production in Finland.

Stress tests and other safety evaluations topical in 2011

Nuclear safety, and especially preparedness for extreme external events, became a major concern in the European Union after the Fukushima nuclear accident. To make nuclear safety more transparent, the EU decided in May 2011 to carry out nuclear safety stress tests.

Safety evaluations were carried out in Loviisa and on Fortum’s eight co-owned reactors in Sweden and Finland. The stress test addresses the safety of the nuclear power plant in conjunction with an earthquake, flood, weather phenomena, and loss of heat sink. It also assesses the operation of the organisation in case of a severe accident and how the plant is technically equipped to manage that. 

The conclusions indicate that the design basis criteria for external events and related safety margins are robust enough at all Fortum’s plants. Measures for further safety improvements will be implemented within the Loviisa nuclear power plant’s normal annual investment programme. The improvements will not have an impact on the availability of the power plant. The Swedish and Finnish radiation safety authorities have given external conclusions for all Fortum’s nuclear plants, see the statements at www.stuk.fi/ and www.stralsakerhetsmyndigheten.se/Allmanhet/.

In addition to stress tests, the national Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland has carried out its own national safety evaluation in cases of power loss, exceptional weather and environmental conditions. No need for immediate safety improvements was identified. Fortum submitted a more detailed study and action plan regarding these issues in Loviisa in December 2011. In Sweden, a national coordination group led by the Swedish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority was established for stress tests. 

Relative decrease in the probability of a severe reactor accident