Picture by Greenpeace Nordic's Virpi Oinonen
Well, the preliminary findings of STUK’s extraordinary inspection of the construction of the Olkiluoto 3. The Finland’s nuclear watchdog conducted the inspection after it was revealed by Greenpeace published evidence that basic construction and safety standards had been violated in welding of the reactor building by Areva’s sub-contractor Bouygues. So, how do the findings look?
STUK have today admitted that the mandatory welding guidelines that Bouygues were supposed to supply were not finalised until after construction on the reactor building had started. This means that STUK cannot guarantee the safety and quality of the welding in Olkiluoto 3’s steel structure.
This admission comes after previous assurances from STUK and Bouygues that there were no problems at the construction site. STUK’s method of investigation was merely to ask Bouygues if there were any problems at the site. Bouygues said no and STUK proclaimed itself satisfied. In the meantime Bouygues had been warning its employees not to speak out about safety issues. Today STUK had finally admitted that contractor has on some occasions told workers not to report on the quality problems to the inspectors.
These problems with the construction at Olkiluoto 3 only came to light when they were revealed by Greenpeace. STUK said today that welding, guidelines should be available for welders and they should know how to use them. Also workers should be allowed to voice concern without fear of punishment. With much of the welding now complete, however, and it now sealed in concrete, this is far too little and far too late. It’s clear that STUK’s inspection and scrutiny processes are not adequate to detect failings in procedures at the site.
With its inability to detect failings, its willingness to take contractors at their word, and its cosy relationship with Olkiluoto 3’s builder Areva, STUK’s judgement can no longer be trusted. An independent inspection to ensure the safety of the reactor building and conducted by outside experts is now urgently needed.