The long wait Op­er­a­tors keen to put the­ory into prac­tice

Financial Times USA - - COMPANIES -

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.”

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