08.05.2014 10:50

“We can learn a lot from Finland”

The United Kingdom has a long way to go before a final disposal location can be established for the storage of its spent nuclear fuel. Following the consideration of a range of different disposal solutions, geological disposal is now the preferred option for storage of the UK's higher activity radioactive wastes. Richard Delley is spending six months at Posiva to gain an understanding of its preparations towards the final disposal of spent fuel in Finland.

Richard Delley came to Olkiluoto to learn about the Finnish method of final disposal. A final disposal location has not yet been chosen in Great Britain, and this is impeding the development of a final repository site.

Finland has demonstrated how a spent fuel repository can be developed, and this can help the UK  understand how to progress its own final disposal plans.

Finnish political decision-making has advanced the project according to plan. In contrast, the UK is still in the process of deciding where to dispose of its higher activity wastes.

“Finland's geological disposal plans are more advanced than those of the UK. With the final disposal location of Finnish spent fuel already selected, research can focus on developing Onkalo. In the UK, research is limited to a generic repository design,” says Richard Delley, who will work at Posiva for six months.

According to Delley, a native of Newcastle Upon Tyne, the UK government aims to have a final disposal facility in operation by 2040, but no schedule can be confirmed until a repository site has been finalised.

“It has been interesting to follow the Finnish and Swedish processes. I'm impressed by the positive attitude of the people in Eurajoki towards the final disposal project. I hope Posiva's geological disposal plans can be utilised by other countries looking to develop their own repositories," Delley says.

A shared effort

Delley, age 28, came to Finland in February to gain an understanding of the behaviour of bentonite clay in an underground repository. As part of this, he is working at the underground research facility ONKALO to find out about the storage of spent fuel within the engineered barrier of the repository.

“We can learn from the work of Posiva and the Swedish SKB; their work will benefit the development of a repository in the UK.”

Delley has a doctorate in organic chemistry from Durham University, located near Newcastle.

He has worked in various positions in the field of nuclear power and final disposal. His future tasks may be related to the packing and transportation of nuclear waste.

According to Delley, attitudes toward nuclear power are fairly positive in Great Britain. The question is, however, how to address the problems associated with the safe storage of its nuclear wastes.

“High-level waste is currently being stored at Sellafield, but the storage facilities are almost at the end of their operational lifetimes. Geological disposal is now the best alternative.”

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