Finland has recently approved of a plan to store nuclear waste underground. With the plan’s approval, Finland has become the world’s first country to allow a construction license for an underground disposal site for nuclear waste.
The plan was proposed by Finnish energy company Posiva Oy. The company will construct a nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and disposal facility on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland. The local residents of the island have largely accepted the plan.
Based on the agreement, up to 6,500 tons of uranium will be permitted to be deposited in the facility. The waste will be stored about 450 meters below the surface in granite bedrock. The facility should be ready to accept waste by the year 2023.
CEO of Posiva Oy Janne Mokka said, “This is a huge step for us. We’ve done research and development work for this for more than 40 years.”
Similar plans have been proposed in Sweden, but the country is still lagging behind Finland.
The world as a whole currently has about 270,000 tons of used fuel that has been stockpiled. Most of this fuel has been stored underneath water at nuclear power stations. Nuclear experts have been urgently looking for a more permanent solution to store the material that can remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.
With the plan from Posiva Oy, the nuclear waste will be packaged into copper canisters and transferred into tunnels and then further deposited into holes that are lined with a bentonite buffer. The construction for the project is expected to cost nearly $1.1 billion. The total cost, including operational expenses for the next 100 years is expected to reach $3.8 billion.
However, before the site can become operational, Posiva Oy must analyze the environmental impacts, including their ability to retrieve the waste if necessary. The company must also outline the associated transportation risks.
Finland’s economy minister Olli Rehn said, “The long-term safety of final disposal is a matter of great importance. It must be monitored throughout the service life of the disposal facility.”
Posiva Oy is owned by Fortum and TVO, which are in ownership of their own nuclear reactors.