STUK requests extension to repository review deadline

19 January 2024

Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has requested the deadline for its opinion on Posiva Oy's operating licence application for the world's first used fuel repository to be extended until the end of 2024. In September last year, it said it would not complete its review by the end of 2023 as originally planned.

A rendering of the underground used fuel repository at Olkiluoto (Image: Posiva)

Radioactive waste management company Posiva submitted its application, together with related information, to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM) on 30 December 2021 for an operating licence for the used fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility currently under construction at Olkiluoto. The repository is expected to begin operations in the mid-2020s. Posiva is applying for an operating licence for a period from March 2024 to the end of 2070.

The government will make the final decision on Posiva's application, but a positive opinion by STUK is required beforehand. The regulator began its review in May 2022 after concluding Posiva had provided sufficient material. The ministry had requested STUK's opinion on the application by the end of 2023.

However, STUK announced in September that its safety assessment and opinion on the application was taking longer than expected and would not be completed by that deadline.

"Since the processing of the operating licence application dossier is still pending at STUK, STUK has requested TEM extend the deadline of the statement to the end of 2024," STUK has now said.

In its report for the last four months of 2023, STUK says the work "is proceeding without major problems, but at a slightly slower pace than previously anticipated". It added: "STUK has not always been able to make its assessments on the basis of the first pieces of data submitted by Posiva, so Posiva has had to update that data. As a result, the processing of the dossier has taken longer than anticipated."

STUK noted that in addition to preparing the safety assessment, it has also continued to supervise Posiva and the work it has performed. Items supervised include the installation of equipment at the above-ground encapsulation plant for used nuclear fuel, test runs of the equipment and the test run plans, as well as the ongoing rock construction work in the underground final disposal locations. It is also monitoring and inspecting the security arrangements of Posiva's final disposal facility, the safety culture of the organisation and Posiva's readiness to start final disposal operations.

The government granted Posiva a construction licence for the project in November 2015 and construction work on the repository started in December 2016. Once it receives the operating licence, Posiva can start the final disposal of the used fuel generated from the operation of TVO's Olkiluoto and Fortum's Loviisa nuclear power plants. The operation will last for about 100 years before the repository is closed.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News