Posiva aiming to submit a licence application in 2012 for the construction of a final disposal facility
In its research and development work, Posiva Oy, responsible for the final disposal of its owners' spent nuclear fuel, aims to submit, in 2012, a construction license application pursuant to the Nuclear Energy Act for a final disposal facility. The development work dealing with the final disposal's technical barriers (metal canister, bentonite buffer, tunnel backfill material) has progressed far, and ONKALO, an underground characterisation facility excavated in Olkiluoto, will reach the final disposal depth (420m) during the spring.
“During this and next year, research and demonstration facilities will be excavated for the final disposal depth,” says Reijo Sundell, President of Posiva. “The purpose of them is to show that we are capable of constructing the final disposal tunnels and holes, and that the bedrock is suitable for the final disposal facilities and meets the requirements for long-term safety.”
Besides the construction of ONKALO, the research and development work concerning the final disposal technology is progressing towards the readiness level required by the construction license. “In recent years, we have mainly focused on the manufacture of the disposal canisters, sealing and inspection technology, and now Posiva's resources will particularly be allocated to the research and manufacturing technology of the bentonite barrier surrounding the final disposal canister, and of the clay material used for filling the tunnels,” says Timo Äikäs, Executive Vice President of Posiva.
The intention is to encapsulate the spent nuclear fuel in a facility constructed near ONKALO. The objective is to commence the construction of the encapsulation plant in 2015, in which case an operation licence application for the final disposal plant could be submitted to the Finnish Government in 2018. In this way, the final disposal can be launched in 2020.
A safety case constitutes an essential part of the construction license application for the final disposal facility. The safety case is a portfolio consisting of numerous reports, reviewing the performance of the technical barriers in the bedrock conditions long into the future.
“Experts consider geological disposal the best solution and a sustainable solution for the management of spent nuclear fuel. In fact, in their collective statement, nuclear waste management experts from the OECD countries say that geological disposal is technically feasible, meets safety requirements and takes into account the intergenerational equity,” says Hans Riotte, Head of the Radiation Protection and Radioactive Waste Management Division at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).
TKS-2009 (Posiva's research, development and technical planning programme) was discussed at an international expert seminar in Helsinki on Wednesday, 10 March. The seminar focused on the current situation of the final disposal project for spent nuclear fuel, and upcoming research and development before submitting the nuclear waste facility construction license application in 2012.