Even away from its culture of cover-up and lack of transparency in its dealings, the nuclear industry is one wrapped in riddles, mystery, and wonder. The unanswered questions stretch on as far as the eye can see.
Tom Burke, of the London Sustainable Development Commission says, ‘there are only two honest answers to the question of how much it costs to build a nuclear power station. These are "I don't know" and "I'll tell you when I've built it." Everything else is a guess.’
But the same goes when it comes to the timescales and schedules involved in building nuclear reactors. A builder who says from the outset just when a reactor will be online is being either recklessly optimistic or a liar. Which would you prefer?
Ask Areva how long it’s going to take to complete Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 reactor. Originally it was 2009. Now it’s 2012 at the earliest. Would you like to bet money on that? Or what about the reactor Areva are building at Flamanville in France? In August this year we reported that, after nine months of construction, the project is nine months behind schedule. You have to admit that’s an amazing trick. Full of mystery. We suspect time travel may have been involved.
It’s not just Areva who have a different concept of time as the rest of us. Japan’s J-Power has just announced that the nuclear power station it is building in Oma will now not be ready in March 2012. The reactor will now, hopefully, power up in November 2014.
The reason for the delay is that the plant needs further work to make it resistant to earthquakes. Why plans for these measures weren’t in place when the greenlight was given for the Oma reactor almost ten years ago, and in a country infamous for its seismic activity, isn’t clear. You could call it a mystery.