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Loviisa provides steady electricity and Finnish nuclear expertise for the decades to come

Matti Kattainen 24 May 2023, 11:00 EEST

Man in Loviisa Nuclear power plant

Fortum's Loviisa nuclear power plant received a new operating licence in February, valid until 2050. The Loviisa power plant is the first nuclear power plant in Finland, with unit 1 and unit 2 having been commissioned in 1977 and 1980 respectively. Today, the plant plays a significant role in Finland's electricity generation, accounting for about one tenth of the electricity produced annually in the country. In 2022, the plant will produce 7.9 terawatt-hours, equivalent to the combined annual electricity consumption of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa.

Extending the lifetime of the power plant is an important decision for a number of reasons. During the energy crisis that started last year, the availability of sufficient electricity has been a concern for both households and industry. Fortunately, there were no cyclical blackouts during the winter, but it is clear that all existing carbon-free generation capacity is needed. Stable and uninterrupted nuclear power will also smooth out fluctuations in electricity prices.

On the other hand, the extension of the lifetime of the Loviisa power plant means that we in Finland will continue to need versatile nuclear expertise in the future. The nuclear power sector is highly knowledge-intensive, which means in practice that the maintenance and development of domestic know-how requires functioning power plants. For young people considering a career in the sector, the new licence is a signal that interesting and challenging jobs will continue to be available in different parts of the country.

Long lifetime requires investment

In the long term, Fortum is investing around 1 billion euros to ensure that the Loviisa power plant will operate stably, reliably and safely during the period of the new operating licence. Over the decades, there has already been a very substantial investment in improving the plant's safety through technical improvements. The operating models of the people and the organisation that operate the plant will therefore be an increasingly important area for further development.

The original design lifetime of the Loviisa nuclear power plant was 30 years. This lifetime has already been extended in the past on the basis of analyses. There is no single limit for the overall lifetime of a power plant such as Loviisa, but the current target is around 70 years. Along the way, the situation will be continuously assessed, and it is not excluded at this stage that the technology could allow an extension of the lifetime beyond the current licence until 2050.

Loviisa gave me the starting point for my career

My own career started in Loviisa. I studied at the then Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo and got a summer job as a radiation protection assistant at Loviisa's annual maintenance. It was extremely inspiring to see the plant from top to bottom. Working in nuclear power seemed interesting, important and intellectually challenging, and this hands-on experience provided the foundation for my whole career. The following year I did my thesis at Fortum's predecessor Imatra Power, and I'm still on that trip more than 30 years later.

My current role combines not only traditional engineering but also leadership and management, social, legal and economic aspects, multi-stakeholder collaboration and continuous learning. I have had the pleasure of working in a variety of roles with inspiring and knowledgeable people, both nationally and internationally. I can warmly recommend a career in energy, and in particular nuclear energy, to new generations. This is an area where there is a chance to make a difference, even on a global scale.

Although I worked at the Loviisa power plant for only a couple of months during my summer job and have since been based in the capital region, Loviisa has a special place in my heart. As I said, Loviisa is of great importance for Finland's electricity supply, but it is also of enormous importance for the local community and for the entire economic region of Itä-Uusimaa and Kymenlaakso. The new operating licence will provide continuity for the community and for the unique know-how that has been accumulated in Loviisa over the decades. I am happy and proud to have played my part in promoting this.

Matti Kattainen

matti [dot] kattainen [at] fortum [dot] com

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