The long wait Operators keen to put theory into practice
Many people will be relieved when the Olkiluoto-3 nuclear reactor in Finland finally begins generating electricity, but few more so than Ville Lindgren.
The 40-year-old Finn has been training to be an operator of the plant since construction started in 2005. “We’ve been here 12 years so it has been a long wait,” he says, hunched over a desk in the Olkiluoto control room.
A bank of multicoloured lights and dozens of screens filled with data give the impression of activity. Yet the screen that matters most, one showing how many megawatts of power are being generated, is blank and will be for at least another year.
A short walk from the control room is the cavernous reactor hall cocooned within a concrete and steel shell several metres thick.
Engineers in helmets and highvisibility jackets can be seen perched on gantries engaged in the final stages of construction.
Below them, the shiny silver pressure vessel, which contains the reactor core, is in place and awaiting critical tests. If all goes to plan — and it is a big if — the giant yellow crane overhanging the reactor will begin loading nuclear fuel early in 2018, with a view to producing electricity later that year.
By then, Mr Lindgren will have spent a third of his life preparing to run the plant. Until then, he and his colleagues are practising on simulators. “All the theory is done,” he says. “We are ready to start what we came here to do.”