Construction to start on Finnish repository

29 November 2016

The excavation of an underground used nuclear fuel final disposal facility at Olkiluoto, Finland, is set to begin next month. Last week the country's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) declared waste management company Posiva to be in a position to start construction of the repository.

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

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, submitted its construction licence application to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in December 2013. The government granted a construction licence for the project last November.

However, under Finland's Nuclear Energy Act, even though a licence has already been granted, the actual construction of a nuclear installation cannot begin until Stuk has reviewed the documents and plans for the facility. Over the past several months, Stuk has been monitoring Posiva's readiness to begin construction of the used fuel repository. This has involved inspections to evaluate Posiva's human resources, project management, quality management, safety culture, design activities, monitoring of the effects of the construction, as well as the physical protection and safeguards at the facility.

Jussi Heinonen, director of Stuk's nuclear waste and material regulation department, noted the regulator earlier carried out a comprehensive safety assessment of the planned repository and evaluated the Posiva organisation whilst reviewing the company's construction licence. "Since the end of 2014, Posiva has revised its plans and has also made changes to its organisation," he said. "For this reason, there was a need to review the whole of Posiva's organisation and its construction capacity."

Stuk decided on 25 November that Posiva is now in a position to start the construction of the facility.

Construction contract

Posiva announced today it has signed a contract, worth some €20 million ($21 million), with YIT Construction Limited. The deal covers a period of about two-and-a-half years and includes the excavation of the repository's first central tunnels, as well as the vehicle access tunnels to them. It also includes preparatory excavations as well as rock sealing works in preparation for the raise boring of a canister shaft where the canister lift will later be installed. Excavation works for the canister receiving station at the depth of about 430 metres are also part of the contract.

In a statement, Posiva said Stuk's decision on its preparedness together with the signing of the contract with YIT "make it possible to launch the first licensed work phases of the final disposal facility as referred to in the construction licence".

Posiva said YIT will start the excavations in December. It added that further construction contracts will be awarded as the project progresses.

Operations at the repository are expected to begin in 2023.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News