New Finnish nuclear reactor start-up delayed

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The start-up of Finland’s fifth nuclear power reactor, seen as a test case for Europe’s nuclear future, has been pushed back and its operator said on Friday it now sees a commercial start in mid-2011.

Start-up had originally been scheduled for 2009.

French nuclear group Areva and Germany’s Siemens are building the 1,600 megawatt Olkiluoto 3 reactor on Finland’s west coast, the first new nuclear reactor to be constructed in Western Europe for more than a decade.

“Areva-Siemens consortium has announced to TVO that the unit would be ready in summer 2011,” plant owner Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) said in a statement. “The delay in the project causes extra work and costs.”

The 3 billion euro ($4.4 billion) project’s start has been postponed before. TVO said in August that delays in construction had likely pushed the date into 2011 from 2009.

The progress of the plant is being closely watched by older EU member states wary of piling back into nuclear projects.

Finland, which is already importing power from neighbors such as Russia, is facing power shortages in coming years with electricity consumption forecast to grow a few percent each year.

Teollisuuden Voima is owned by Finnish utility Fortum and Pohjolan Voima, a consortium of Finnish forestry and energy firms.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; editing by James Jukwey