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B+Tech Oy conducts pioneering research in Finland – investigations on bentonite clays play an essential role in the development of a solution for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel

The copper-iron canister with long rated service life and the bentonite clay buffer between the rock and the canister together form a significant part of the solution for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. The encapsulation technology has been developed this decade, largely in cooperation with the Swedish nuclear waste management company SKB. In the next few years, efforts will focus on the bentonite buffer. More information is needed for the purposes of the safety case to be enclosed to the construction licence application for the final disposal repository. A company has been founded specifically to conduct this research: B+Tech Oy, which is the only Finnish company specialising in studies regarding the bentonite clay utilised in the final disposal solution.

Helsinki-based B+Tech Oy provides experts and expertise in matters related to the behaviour of bentonite clays and possibly also other clay materials. B+Tech will for its part ensure that enough knowledge and trained experts are available in Finland to carry out the engineering design of the final disposal solution and to prove the performance of the bentonite buffer. 

B+Tech Oy concluded a cooperation agreement with Posiva Oy in November 2008. The objective of the cooperation agreement is to ensure that the required knowledge of the properties of bentonite and the experience in its use will be available in time for the purposes of final disposal.

Bentonite is used in the final disposal repository as a protective layer round the fuel canisters. The safety of the final disposal of spent fuel is based on several engineered and natural barriers and the bentonite buffer is of special significance, particularly should one of the other barriers be damaged against all expectations.

In the summer of 2008, B+Tech inaugurated a research laboratory, which is believed to be the only laboratory in the world designed solely for bentonite research. The scientists at B+Tech study e.g. the chemical composition and characteristics of expanding bentonite clay and how it behaves in the final disposal conditions, particularly in interaction with groundwater, iron and cement.

B+Tech Oy was founded in 2007 and the operation of the company started at the beginning of 2008. At present B+Tech employs nine people. The company is owned by a Finnish engineering consultancy company Saanio&Riekkola Oy and a Swedish company ClayTechnology Ab.

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