Work together on waste, says government

02 March 2012

Finland's government has requested a "neutral" investigation be carried out to determine whether Posiva's planned high level waste facility can also accommodate waste from Fennovoima's proposed nuclear power plant. If necessary, it is prepared to invoke the force of law to make sure companies cooperate.

Posiva_Olkiluoto_ Winter_2011_(Posiva_Oy)_380
Posiva's Olkiluoto site: no room for Fennovoima fuel?
(Image: Posiva Oy)

Management of used fuel arising from Finland's planned sixth and seventh reactors has been an outstanding issue since the Finnish cabinet's 2010 decisions-in-principle to allow TVO and Fennovoima to build new nuclear units. At the same time, the government voted to allow Posiva Oy, the company set up by the country's existing nuclear operators TVO and Fortum to manage the disposal of their used fuel, to expand its planned repository to accommodate used fuel from TVO's proposed Olkiluoto 4 reactor.

Posiva has advanced plans to build a repository adjacent to the Olkiluoto plant and has started work on the underground Onkalo rock laboratory. It is expected to apply for a construction licence sometime in 2012 but the company maintains that the currently planned repository will not have the space to accommodate used fuel from Fennovoima's proposed plant on Pyhäjoki's Hanhikivi peninsula. This leaves new market entrant Fennovoima technically without access to a repository, and therefore short of meeting licensing conditions. It has until 2016 to present an agreement to cooperate in nuclear waste management with TVO and Fortum or start the environmental impact program towards establishing its own repository. To date, Fennovoima has concentrated, unsuccesfully, on coming to an agreement with Posiva.

The government's readiness to apply the force of Finland's Nuclear Energy Act to ensure that the companies involved in managing used nuclear fuel cooperate was noted on 28 February by economic affairs minister Jyri Häkämies at a meeting of a government committee on economic policy. He noted that under paragraph 29 of the act, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy can order "waste management custodians" to address waste management measures collectively if to do so will increase safety, substantially reduce expenditures or if other "important reasons" make such cooperation preferable.

"This is the government's message to the operators in the field: the technical clarifications regarding final disposal should be carried out in a neutral and unbiased manner. After that, it will be time to make decisions," Häkämies said. He added that cooperation should be possible if a "mutual solution" was shown to be both feasible and the best option from the perspective of overall economy and safety.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News