The final disposal project proceeds at the terms of safety
YLE has published a story on its website and morning news on TV Channel One which states that the final disposal schedule is too tight. Posiva’s response and clarifications related to the story are presented below.
The story states the following: “Posiva has not been able to prove the safety of the bentonite clay and the tunnel back-filler materials surrounding the release barriers, i.e. the copper canisters, that are intended as sealing materials for nuclear waste.” The story is based on information provided by a researcher involved in the Posiva disposal project who independently contacted YLE. Juhani Vira, Vice President for Research at Posiva, is also interviewed in the story.
Because of the claims made in the story, viewpoints related to the disposal project’s schedule and the assessment of safety should be clarified.
Posiva’s objective is to submit the construction licence application for the disposal facility in 2012. Last autumn, Posiva submitted pre-licencing documentation for the construction licence application to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), presenting the situation of the documentation required for the licence application: the degree of completion of the application material and areas to be supplemented. Research, development and technical design work (TKS) conducted for the construction licence application has been presented in the TKS-2009 programme published last autumn by Posiva. The programme defines the research, development and technical design work that Posiva will complete by 2012 for the construction licence application. The TKS programme, similar to other Posiva reports, is available on the Posiva website.
According to Posiva’s reporting principles, central reports are evaluated by an outside expert before their publication. All reports published must meet scientific quality requirements, but they do not need to represent the views of Posiva. If required, a disclaimer is entered in the reports, indicating that the report represents the views of its authors, not those of Posiva.
Last autumn, Posiva submitted its TKS-2009 programme to the authorities for evaluation. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has requested a number of official and expert bodies to provide a statement on the TKS programme by the end of June. The statement of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy on the TKS programme will be completed by the end of this year. STUK will issue its statement in September, using external experts in its evaluation. In addition, STUK will assess the progress of work related to the implementation of the final disposal project and its long-term safety as well as any open questions in issue meetings, which are held regularly at six-month intervals. The previous meeting was organised between the experts of Posiva and STUK in Eurajoki at the end of May (26–27 May).
The YLE news story is based on the opinion of an individual researcher who does not represent the views of Posiva. In addition to Posiva personnel, research and development work carried out for the final disposal project employs approximately 200 experts in Finland, representing research institutions, universities and other organizations. However, the project does not rely solely on Finnish experts: in the research and development of technical release barriers, Posiva has, for many years, been engaged in close cooperation with the Swedish nuclear waste company, SKB. SKB will apply for a construction permit for a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel in the municipality of Östhammar by the end of this year.
The construction licence application for the Olkiluoto final disposal facility has a tight but feasible schedule. Posiva is not unconditionally committed to the year 2012 if a sufficient safety level cannot be achieved by that stage. Ultimately, STUK defines the reporting level required for the construction licence application and the extent of supplementation needed for the application after 2012.