Yesterday we brought you more of the continuing and farcical story of the state of the art European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built by AREVA at Olkiluoto in Finland. The many, many diverse delays incompetence in the project have led to it being (at the time of writing) four years behind schedule and 2.3 billion euros over-budget.

It’s not just in Finland, however, where the reactor that was supposed to relaunch the nuclear ‘renaissance’ is struggling. In the UK, where the EPR - along with the Westinghouse AP1000 - is being evaluated for possible construction there, the government’s Health and Safety Executive has said its design assessment process will miss its June 2011 deadline.

More information is required from the reactor vendors in a number of areas: fault studies, fuel design and electrical systems for AP1000; and mechanical engineering, environment and fuel design for the EPR. For both reactors the HSE wants more information on structural integrity as well as higher active waste and used fuel management.

Nuclear industry spin doctors at the World Nuclear News say ‘none of this implies known deficiencies in the reactors’. Instead what it does imply is great big holes in the designs for both reactors. More information is required about structural integrity and waste management? Those are pretty large pieces to be missing from this particular jigsaw.

We also like the ‘known’ in ‘known deficiencies’. Nice spin. Until we see the information about these fundamental aspects of the reactors’ designs, what we’re actually talking about here is ‘unknown deficiencies’ which are may or may not be more worrying than the deficiencies we know about.

Still, this is all to be expected from the nuclear industry: you see it time after time. Delivering a nuclear reactor is a little like having a baby. You never know for sure when it’s going to arrive and when it does you face long years of expense and mess.