Licence granted for Finnish used fuel repository

12 November 2015

The Finnish government has today granted a construction licence to waste management specialist Posiva for a used nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility at Olkiluoto.

Olkiluoto repository
The Olkiluoto repository will consist of a network of disposal tunnels up to 450 metres below ground (Image: Posiva)

The government included several conditions in the construction licence. When applying for an operating licence, Posiva is required to submit analyses concerning the environmental impacts of the facility, the retrievability of the used fuel, the transport risks involved and any changes that may have been introduced in the project. A maximum of 6500 tonnes of uranium may be disposed of in the facility.

The used fuel will be packed inside copper canisters at the encapsulation plant, from where they will be transferred into the underground tunnels of the disposal facility, located at a depth of 400-450 metres, and further into the deposition holes lined with bentonite buffer.

The site for Posiva's repository at Eurajoki near Olkiluoto was selected in 2000. The Finnish parliament approved the decision-in-principle on the repository project the following year.

Posiva, jointly owned by Finnish nuclear utilities Fortum and Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), submitted its construction licence application to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in December 2013 with the aim of permanently storing the used nuclear fuel from its owners' nuclear power plants. The application covered the construction of the encapsulation plant and repository, as well as for facilities for the final disposal of waste created during the operation and decommissioning of the encapsulation plant.

In February, Finland's radiation and nuclear safety authority, STUK, gave its backing to Posiva's application to construct a final repository and waste encapsulation plant.

Posiva said the government's favourable decision for the construction licence was "recognition for the extensive R&D work carried out by Posiva for more than 40 years". It said, after gaining research results and experience from the Onkalo underground rock characterization facility, it is now "about to move on to the construction of the final disposal facility".

Posiva expects construction work on the repository to start in late 2016 and operations to begin in 2023.

Minister of economic affairs Olli Rehn said, "The construction licence granted now is the first in the world for a used nuclear fuel disposal facility. Finland is an international pioneer in nuclear waste management, which also obliges us to take care of matters responsibly and safely in future. Finnish expertise also provides us with commercial opportunities in developing nuclear waste management in other countries."

Posiva president and CEO Janne Mokka said, "The construction licence that has now been granted for our final disposal facility for used nuclear fuel is a significant achievement for us, our owners and our entire personnel. This pioneering project is important not only for Finland, but also on a global scale. It is the first project entering into construction phase in the whole world."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News