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Finland's nuclear safety programme targets continuity in the sector's research and expertise


The aim of the national SAFIR2014 Research Programme on Nuclear Power Plant Safety is to guarantee the continuation of research and expertise in an area critical to Finland. One of the programme's principal tasks is to conduct high-level international nuclear safety research. Other key objectives are the maintenance of computational and experimental readiness and the development of research infrastructure.

Public nuclear safety research has been carried out in Finland for the past 10 years on the basis of to the reformed funding model stipulated in the Nuclear Energy Act, according to which around 60 per cent of funding is provided by the Nuclear Waste Management Fund (VYR). The annual operating budget for the SAFIR2014 programme (2011–2014) is EUR 10 million.

In 2012 the programme produced 300 publications, including around 140 research reports, 75 international conference papers and 35 scientific articles. There were a total of 42 research projects.

As well as conducting high-level international nuclear safety research, it is essential to both maintain and develop the expertise in the area of nuclear power plant safety. The programme provides excellent opportunities for carrying out thesis work. Particular attention is paid to training new experts. Projects are intended to include new young researchers who carry out their thesis work, for example, under the programme. These projects make an ideal growth platform for future experts in nuclear safety. The programme is also amenable to postgraduate studies.

The report of the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy's Committee for Nuclear Energy Competence in Finland states that by 2025 the sector will require a total of around 2,400 new experts with competence in the special characteristics of the nuclear sector.

Renewed nuclear safety infrastructure for VTT and LUT

The programme also assists funding for nuclear safety infrastructure, enabling renewal and development. The principal targets are VTT's material testing facilities in Espoo and the thermal hydraulics experimental facilities at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). The infrastructure of each of these key research facilities will continue to be the subject of vigorous development.

Experimental facilities also play a significant role internationally. The facility at Lappeenranta is involved in the OECD's experimental research programme investigating thermal hydraulics phenomena in accident scenarios involving both current pressurised water reactor plants and new design concepts. VTT for its part is continuing with international impact tests to study the response of reinforced concrete structures to severe dynamic loads.

The aim of the Lappeenranta University of Technology infrastructure development project is to increase the quality and quantity of measurement data produced in experimental research. Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) and Wire Mesh Sensor (WMS) have been commissioned. Main circulation pumps have also been renewed in one experimental facility.

Design and construction of an impact test facility at VTT already began in 2004, with the start of concrete wall tests in 2006. The facility tests the behaviour of steel-reinforced concrete walls when struck by soft or hard missiles, thus simulating the impact of an aircraft. The test results can be used to review those obtained from numerical computation and thereby verify the accuracy of the computational models. The originally SAFIR-funded project has grown to become Impact, an international project conducting research into the effects of aircraft impact. In addition to its Finnish participants the project includes 8 international partners.

The SAFIR2014 steering group consists of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (TEM), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), Fortum Oyj, Fennovoima Oy, Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), Aalto University, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, all from Finland, and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).

The programme's interim seminar will be held on 21–22 March 2013 at Hanasaari in Espoo.

SAFIR2014 website: