Commissioning is the last step in the project phase before electricity production commences at a nuclear power plant. During it, we will confirm that Hanhikivi 1 achieves our safety and production-related expectations. While commissioning is, in my opinion, the most complex and challenging phase of any engineering project, I find it the most rewarding as we finally get to see the results of our hard work.
The commissioning function is part of Fennovoima’s Utility organization. Our primary focus is on the safety and quality of the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant. It is assured with a multi-discipline approach meaning that nearly every department will have commissioning responsibilities and duties.
Typically, nuclear power plant commissioning is made up of three key stages. Stage one is the non-nuclear commissioning, where the systems, structures, and components of the nuclear power plant are tested before we load nuclear fuel into the reactor. The second stage begins with fuel loading and is followed by numerous tests, including initial criticality tests and low power tests. Before this stage, we must demonstrate that our plant and processes are suitably developed and robust, and our personnel possesses the required competencies to move into nuclear operations. Permission to load fuel in the reactor will be granted by the regulator STUK when all pre-requisites have been achieved. The third and final stage of commissioning demonstrates the plant’s ability for continuous and stable electricity production. As we move through the commissioning phases, we take on more ownership of systems and processes until we fully control all operational duties.
In addition to us, STUK oversees that any activities that could impact safety are sufficiently considered and under our control during commissioning. We have already had a number of joint meetings with STUK and site visits to Hanhikivi 1’s reference plant (Leningrad II). This early involvement helps us ensure that the standards and expectations are clearly understood between all organizations involved in the Hanhikivi 1 commissioning.
During the current design phase of Hanhikivi 1, we have two essential commissioning duties. Firstly, Fennovoima’s technical departments define commissioning expectations for each design process stage. These expectations are then discussed and agreed with our EPC Supplier, RAOS Project Oy. Secondly, we use the stage expectations to assess the plant design, identify any areas of risk, or highlight best practices from other nuclear power projects that can be used.
From my perspective, it is particularly rewarding to define and develop a function that will be used during 60 years of operation. Strategic decisions made now will have a long-lasting impact on future operations so we need to justify all our decisions systematically.
As part of the strategic development, Fennovoima has also invested heavily in identifying best practices from around the world. Throughout my time at Fennovoima, I have worked with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Organization), WANO (World Association of Nuclear Operators), and international nuclear companies to share and assess commissioning lessons learned. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with many new nuclear projects around the world, including Rosatom’s Leningrad 2, EDF’s Hinkley Point C & Flamanville 3, Nawah’s Barakah, and SNPTC’s Shidao Bay.
At every plant site, our hosts have openly shared their best practices and areas for improvement. This information has been invaluable in preparing Fennovoima for future commissioning activities. In return, I’ve also participated in WANO Member Support Missions (MSMs) to assist other companies in specific commissioning development activities. Since I have worked in many different industries, it’s clear to me that the nuclear sector leads the way in sharing lessons learned.
Fennovoima's Commissioning Manager
Matthew Geraghty is Fennovoima’s Commissioning Manager and has broad experience in a number of industries, including oil & gas, conventional power, and nuclear. In his free time, Matthew enjoys spending time in the Finnish countryside with his family and friends.