The construction of France’s first EPR reached a milestone today with the setting of the dome atop its reactor building. Flamanville 3 is scheduled to operate from 2016.

One of the world’s most powerful cranes was used to raise the unit’s dome — which measures 43 metres in diameter and weighs some 260 tonnes — and to slowly lower it into place on the 44-metre high reactor building.

Plant owner EDF said that 95% of the civil engineering work at Flamanville 3 has now been completed, together with about 46% of the electrical and mechanical installation work. EDF is architect engineer of the project, while Areva is contributing the nuclear steam supply system and Bouygues Construction is leading the civil engineering consortium.

Work will now start to weld an air-tight seal around the joint between the dome and the reactor building, which will then be encased with 7000 tonnes of concrete. Meanwhile, the heavy components of the nuclear steam supply system — including the steam generators, reactor vessel and pressurizer — will be installed within the reactor building over the next few months.

Construction work began on the 1650 MWe unit, adjacent to two existing pressurized water reactors, at the Normandy site in December 2007. The reactor was originally expected to start commercial operation in 2013, but due to delays is now expected to start up in 2016.

EPRs are also under construction at Olkiluoto 3 in Finland and Taishan 1 and 2 in China. Olkiluoto 3 has been under construction since 2005 and has seen several revisions to its start-up date, which is now expected by 2016. Taishan 1, which has been under construction since 2009, is expected to start up in October 2013, while Taishan 2 is scheduled to begin operating a year later.

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