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Finland first country to start final disposal of spent fuel

March 3, 2023

As part of our international focus – some news from Finland

No country has made more progress than Finland on the development of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) as a long-term, permanent solution for securely and safely disposing of higher activity radioactive waste.

Finnish nuclear waste management company Posiva Oy is the first in the world to be ready to start final disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

This will be carried out at Onkalo, on Olkiluoto Island, from 2025.

Posiva crews carry out excavation work at the Onkalo repository

Posiva crews carry out excavation work at the Onkalo repository

Juhani Vira, Corporate Adviser at Posiva, said: “We have been making systematic progress, step by step, for over three decades now.”

A GDF requires community support and Finland has had very few issues with the acceptance of the project.

The developers have shared clear, consistent messages about the work they are doing, why a GDF is safe and why it will benefit the host community.

Mr Vira said there was a widely accepted acknowledgment that “you have to do something about it, don’t you?”.

Decades of research and carefully prepared plans have been refined by Posiva and are ready to be put into practice.

When the spent fuel is ready for final disposal in the GDF at Onkalo, only one-thousandth of its original radiation will remain. Multi-level safety systems will be put into place to prevent emissions.

Posiva Oy says that by the time of final disposal, the walls of the canisters that securely hold the packaged waste and the metres of rock underground are enough to stop any radiation being released.

About a third of the electricity consumed in Finland will eventually be produced at Olkiluoto.

Concentrating the energy production and the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel into a small area – a total of 170 hectares – minimises the environmental impact, Posiva says.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland has certified the work to prepare for the ground-breaking repository, in stable Finnish bedrock 430 metres below ground, in a project costing about €2.6 billion (£2.2 billion).

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