Waste managers plan ahead

14 May 2008

Steps are being taken to accommodate used nuclear fuel from Finland's potential new reactors within existing waste disposal plans.


Used nuclear fuel canister (Image: Posiva)
The copper canisters and iron inserts
which will contain Finnish radioactive
wastes for 100,000 years (Image: Posiva)
Posiva is the company responsible for managing the final disposal of used nuclear fuel from Finland's nuclear reactors. It is owned jointly by the country's two nuclear generators, Fortum and Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), and is planning an underground repository for the used nuclear fuel near TVO's Olkiluoto site.


Posiva plans to place used nuclear fuel in solid iron and copper canisters before embedding them in clay within a network of tunnels some 400 metres underground in solid bedrock. Posiva is currently studying the rock at Olkiluoto and preparing its licence application using results from the Onkalo underground laboratory, which would be expanded to form the basis of the repository if the rock proves suitable.


Emplacement work is to begin in 2020, although used nuclear fuel from any new reactors would not be emplaced until 2070 at the earliest, Posiva said.


Yesterday, a submission was made to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy detailing how Posiva wants to develop an environmental impact assessment on expanding the future size of its repository. A store capable of holding 12,000 tonnes of uranium is to be studied, allowing 3000 tonnes each from Olkiluoto 4 and Loviisa 3 on top of what has already been approved.


If the government approves of the EIA program, Posiva would carry out the study before applying for a decision in principle to one day go ahead, subject to a vote in parliament.


This is the second time Posiva has communicated with government on this issue. It applied for a decision in principle in April regarding an expansion to 9000 tonnes in order to allow for Olkiluoto 4. The company was able to apply directly for a decision on that level of capacity because a corresponding EIA had already been carried out in the late 1990s. The latest change to 12,000 tonnes, however, requires a new EIA.


A third new reactor is also in the planning stages for Finland. Fennovoima has bought land suitable for a new nuclear power site and is completing its EIA for a 1000-1800 MWe light-water reactor, the same class of unit as TVO and Fortum are proposing.


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