27.10.2014 09:24

Valuable information scurries around among the Olkiluoto wildlife

Even small animals can reveal big secrets to us, at least as part of a large-scale study. A ground beetle study is being conducted at Olkiluoto that will provide Posiva with information that is important for the assessment of the long-term safety of final disposal.

One interesting ground beetle found at Olkiluoto is Pterostichus niger.

As Posiva is planning the safe final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, no stone is left unturned and no beetle is left unstudied.

This autumn pitfall traps have been set around the Olkiluoto area for catching ground beetles. By studying these small beetles, additional information is gathered for the migration modelling of radionuclides in the surface environment. The research work is connected to the justification of the long-term safety of final disposal.

Research coordinator Tuomas Pere from Posiva.

“The ecosystem and the entire migration process of radionuclides are modelled with the help of the ground beetles. We are not actually measuring radionuclide emissions. The study is used to gather initial data to enable the modelling of this process”, research coordinator Tuomas Pere from Posiva says.

More than 300 species of ground beetles are known to be extant in Finland. These beetles usually have long, thin limbs and they move rather quickly. They are most often black or metallic in colour. The majority of species are carnivores.

Fresh information for the modelling chain

The ground beetle study is a part of a large-scale modelling chain. An animal is selected from certain animal groups as a reference case.

The modelling is used to calculate the radioactive dose both people and the environment may be exposed to in the event of radionuclides being released from a disposal canister.

“Posiva carries out dose calculations for the safety case of the disposal facility's operating licence application. The modelling chain was lacking information on ground beetles”, Pere explains.

Faunatica, a company providing environmental services, is implementing the ground beetle study on behalf of Posiva. During the fieldwork performed at Olkiluoto, Faunatica's specialists have set traps and taken soil samples.


After animal specimens have been obtained, the biomass of ground beetles present per area will be studied in the various biotopes of the Olkiluoto area. In addition, the size of the animals captured will be measured and elemental analyses will be performed on them.

Pere estimates that the first study results on ground beetles would be available to Posiva by the end of this year.

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