Vattenfall has delayed the restart of unit 4 at the Ringhals nuclear power plant by two months to January 31, 2023. “The unforeseen necessary repairs are taking longer than expected before the unit is restarted after the annual maintenance,” Vattenfall said in a regulation. archiving.
The 130MWe pressurized water reactor at Ringhals 4 was shut down for annual routine maintenance in August, but could not be restarted after the reactor’s pressure vessel (RPV) was damaged during tests. Vattenfall had initially expected the repairs to be completed in November.
Grid operator Svenska Kraftnat said the delay increases the “real risk” of power shortages and “we may have to disconnect electricity users this winter”. Although Sweden is a net exporter of electricity, supply problems have increased with the closure of several nuclear reactors in the last decade and less reliable production from renewable energy. Europe’s energy crisis, which triggered sanctions against Russian gas supplies, has worsened the situation.
– It is of course unfortunate, because we know that nuclear power is needed in southern Sweden, so it is really not what we wanted. Now we are fully focused on getting this in order and restoring the facility so that it can start again,” says Ringhal’s press manager Anna Collin.
– It is clear that this is a major interruption, both for us and for the electricity supply in Sweden, says Ringhals CEO Björn Linde to Sveriges Television. The replacement of the damaged RPV is more complicated than previously communicated, says Ringhals in a press release, adding that over 100 Ringhals employees are involved in developing work methods and manufacturing special tools and spare parts.
A full scale model of the nearly 13 meter high RPV is being built to test the tools and rehearse the operation. “The pressure vessel is radioactive, all work is carefully prepared and practicing in a test environment helps us work safely and efficiently when we are ready to do the actual repair work,” Linde said in the press release.
– We have a big job ahead of us, but the motivation is strong because nuclear power is in demand in southern Sweden. All available resources are being used to get Ringhals 4 back into operation.”
The decommissioning of several reactors in 2017-2020, including Ringhals 1&2, has left Sweden with three nuclear power plants with a total of six reactors that produce around 30 percent of the country’s electricity production, according to the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).
The delay also affects Finland. “On a cold day during severe frost, Finland would have to import a significant amount of electricity from Sweden, so this is very bad news for Finland,” Fingrid CEO Jukka Ruusunen told Reuters.
Image: Ringhals nuclear power plant (courtesy of Vattenfall)