03.02.2015 09:42

Safety comes first as the processing of Posiva’s construction licence application progresses

The authorities have been assessing Posiva’s construction licence application for a spent nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and disposal facility for two years, and according to advance information, the time for decisions is now approaching.

Whilst the decision on the granting of the licence will be made by the Government on the basis of a proposal presented by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the content of a statement prepared by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) will have a decisive practical impact on the success of the licence application.  The Nuclear Energy Act stipulates that STUK and the Ministry of the Environment must be requested to submit statements concerning a construction licence application. In practice, however, statements have been requested from several other parties involved as well.

Juhani Vira, Corporate Adviser at Posiva
“One of the absolute prerequisites for the granting of the licence is the nuclear and radiation safety of the designed nuclear facility. As the primary responsibility for the assessment of this matter lies with STUK, STUK’s statement will have a decisive impact on the outcome of the licence process carried out by the Government,” says Juhani Vira, Corporate Adviser at Posiva.

The Parliament is currently working on a number of changes to the content of the Nuclear Energy Act. Following the changes, the law will unequivocally require that the Government take into account any safety-related proposals made by STUK. These proposals may also contain conditions for the future licensee.

Supervision will continue during construction

Even in the case that STUK issues a favourable statement, i.e. recommends the approval of the licence application, it may attach to its statement various requirements. Posiva will have to fulfil these requirements at the time of the construction of the encapsulation plant and disposal facility.

The content and method of preparation of the safety case and the operational safety assessment may also be subject to requirements.

Vesa Ruuska
Vesa Ruuska, Safety Manager at Posiva
“This will probably be the case. As early as last year, STUK requested Posiva to submit its development programme. In the programme, we explain how we are going to resolve the remaining open issues relating to the disposal concept and show that any residual uncertainties will not threaten the long-term safety of the concept,” says Vesa Ruuska, Safety Manager at Posiva.

STUK’s list of items requiring further investigation is likely to feature several matters listed in the development programme.

“Whilst the eventual granting of a construction licence will authorise Posiva to commence the construction of an above-ground encapsulation plant as well as an underground final repository, the construction operations will take place under strict supervision by STUK,” says Vira.

The current outlook is that STUK will carry out a separate assessment of Posiva’s readiness to commence with the implementation of the facilities. The outcome of this assessment will then determine whether Posiva may launch construction operations in accordance with the construction licence.

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