There are seven potential sites in the Czech Republic which could one day house a deep geological repository for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel. Recently, elected officials from local municipalities had a chance to visit just such an installation – which will be the first in the world – under construction in Finland. It is thought the Finnish repository could serve as a model for the Czech Republic’s own.
A deep geological site hundreds of metres below ground in Onkalo, Finland, is expected to be operational in 2022, becoming the first such repository not for temporary but for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel. The Czech Republic, with two nuclear power plants, has long sought its own deep storage solution, with the aim of a successful site being chosen and a facility being constructed and operational by 2065.
Opposition, in municipalities near suitable locations, not surprisingly, has been high. The Radioactive Waste Depository Authority, which in the past promised financial incentives for local municipalities, is hoping that will change.
Recently, a delegation including elected officials from several localities had the chance to visit the site under construction in Finland. The repository could serve as an example, says the Radioactive Waste Depository Authority’s Jiří Slovák. He described what the Czech site might one day look like.
“The site would be located 500 metres below ground and would have special storage hallways. Each hallway would have vertical shafts in the floor which would be lined with a ring of bentonite. The storage container with the spent fuel would then be lowered down and the whole thing would be covered in concrete. The full hall would then be filled in with bentonite and permanently blocked off.”
Minister for Industry and Trade Jan Mládek told Czech Radio that the site in Finland was a good example as it was being built in similar geological conditions to the Czech Republic’s, meaning there was room to presumably share expertise in construction and safety.
Even so, not all mayors are convinced they could live with the construction of an enormous underground nuclear waste site near their municipality. Zdenka Klesalová, the mayor of Lodhéřov near Jindřichův Hradec, a village whose inhabitants voted 98 percent against the plan back in 2004, told Czech Radio’s Radiožurnál this:
“That is a very difficult question for me at this time. At this point, I find it hard to imagine what it would be like. It is possible but it depends what phase we are talking about. So technically, yes.”
If the Czech Republic is one day to have its own deep storage site, one of the other mayors who took part agreed that communication with Finnish representatives had been positive and made clear cooperation with the Finns was a positive way forward.