Sunday 15 February 2015 – The Chemical Engineer
Plan to bury waste in bedrock can be safe
FINNISH regulators have given final approval to a plan to build a nuclear waste depository and processing plant beneath Olkiluoto Island.
The plan calls for spent nuclear fuel from the nuclear power plants of Teollisuuden Voima and Fortum to be packed in copper canisters and then embedded in the bedrock beneath the island at a depth of up to 450 m.
After several years considering the proposal, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) has told the government that the facility can be built to be safe.
We have already assessed that the operational and long-term safety of the nuclear waste facility are on a sufficiently high level for granting the construction licence, explains STUK section head Jussi Heinonen.
This is a new type of facility, which is why the appropriate approach is to progress in phases and, at the same time, assess and elaborate the designing of the facility on the basis of the accumulating knowledge.
For example, we will gain more detailed knowledge about the local characteristics of rock at the final disposal depth once the construction of the facility begins.
The plants designer Posiva, a waste management specialist jointly owned by Finnish nuclear companies Fortum and TVO, says that it is now able to carry out detailed engineering work on the designs. It estimates that building the facility will cost approximately 3bn (US$3.4bn), and that it will be processing waste for around a century.
According to Posiva, the first preparations for the disposal project began in the 1980s, and the Finnish parliament first gave its in-principle approval to the project 14 years ago. STUK has been considering the companys construction licence since late 2012.
The government still needs to approve an operating licence before the proposed repository can start processing waste. Posiva says it expects to apply for that licence in 2020.