In international waters with language skills
Close international relations are a part of the everyday work of many employees at Posiva. All Posiva projects include cross-border cooperation and the company has signed cooperation agreements with foreign organisations in charge of final disposal or related to it.
"Our role has become more prominent as the engine of EU-funded projects. Posiva's visibility in Europe has clearly increased with its international duties," says senior expert Marjatta Palmu, who is well-versed in cross-border cooperation.
Palmu's career at Posiva began in 2002 when she started working as a planning engineer at Olkiluoto. She had a background in rock engineering and excavation planning from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. After that Palmu changed her field and worked, for example, as the head teacher at HAAGA-HELIA's School of Vocational Teacher Education.
"I have been following the field of nuclear waste management even before Posiva was established."
Palmu studied at the Helsinki University of Technology and graduated with an M.Sc. in Technology with a major in excavation technology in 1980. She also holds an MBA from the Helsinki School of Economics.
A great goal divided into smaller pieces
Palmu's job description has changed as the final disposal project has proceeded. One common feature of the duties has been that they have always required some special expertise.
"When I started at Posiva, the final disposal project moved to verifying location studies and work started on building permission application for the final disposal plant. In 2002, the year 2010 felt very distant," says Palmu.
She says that the requirements of the long span of time are evident in Posiva's work. Posiva's former president, Eero Patrakka, is known to have remarked that Posiva's quarter is 25 years long.
The planning of final disposal has been divided into interim goals and work duties have been split into shorter, manageable parts.
"It is not enough for us to have one distant objective. Work must be planned so that we know what we are doing at any given stage."
Supervision by the authorities brings its own flavour
Posiva's work is strongly characterised its controlled operating environment where it is under the continuous supervision of authorities. Everything starts from the emphasis on safety.
"When one understands this about one's work, one gets to work in a positively exceptional industry. Planning of final disposal requires constant reporting and official requirements and guidelines must be followed in the work," says Palmu.
As the final disposal project proceeds, new issues are continuously raised. According to Palmu, the challenge of the job is the question of how to handle the issues now being decided in the best possible manner based on current knowledge.
Palmu's work has meant innumerable travel days, so she has not had much difficulty thinking of how to spend her free time.
"International operations require a readiness for travel. It is one of the features of this work. On the other hand, I have had the pleasure of cooperating with many different nationalities," says Palmu, who uses Finnish, English, Swedish and German in her work in addition to speaking Spanish and French at a tourist level.
When she has leisure time left, she spends it with her family or at the opera.
Summer job travels all the way to Greenland
Anne Lahtinen could hardly predict that her summer job at Posiva in 2005 would eventually carry her to the permafrost of Greenland. Her current job as a hydrogeologist means that she travels on average once a year to this island belonging to Denmark to conduct glacier and climate studies.
As mentioned, Lehtinen's career at Posiva started in summer 2005. It was the that she came to Olkiluoto to conduct hydrological measurements and to help plan and implement taking water samples.
"I was actually concerned over the final disposal of used fuel. I wanted to study the matter better on site," says Lehtinen about her motivation to apply for a summer job at Posiva.
"After the summer job, I stayed at Posiva and I'm still here. I was just about to finish my Master's thesis at the time."
Lehtinen, who is originally from Laihia, graduated from the Division of Geology of the Department of Geosciences and Geography at the University of Helsinki in 2006. Before her studies in Helsinki, she studied geology in Umeå, Sweden.
"Proximity to nature appeals to me in geology. It is fascinating to study how this Earth of ours has been formed. I am equally interested in water in all its forms."
Let's not do things the way they have always been done
Lehtinen says that she will not run out of study subjects in her field. There is a great deal of study to be done on the behaviour of glaciers and climate change relative to final disposal. More glacier research is needed in general.
"During my working years, we have initiated interesting cooperation relations with universities, research institutes and other organisation s involved in planning final disposal."
According to Lehtinen, advance work is emphasised in Posiva's operations. Things are thoroughly worked out before implementation. The multidisciplinary competence of Posiva personnel 'taught this hydrogeologist a great deal.
"The support and knowledge of more senior experts has always been available in Posiva. This is not a place where things are done in the same way as they always have been done. We are constantly seeking new ideas and ways of doing things. Unofficial multidisciplinary discussions are a breeding ground for these ideas," says Lehtinen.
If trips to Greenland require some effort, Rauma-based Lehtinen does not let herself off easily in her leisure time. Horseback riding and CrossFit as hobbies require nerve commitment.
"I started with CrossFit when I got bored with aerobics and self-guided training at the gym."
There's a lot to a geologist
Tuomas Pere could be called a veteran of Olkiluoto. Pere, currently a geologist at Posiva, first came to Olkiluoto in the early 2000s. His summer and part-time jobs at the time included participation in the annual maintenance outages.
Pere says that working at Posiva has provided him with an opportunity for continuous professional development. This is evident also in his job descriptions over the years.
For a long time, Pere performed traditional geologist's duties, such as geological mapping about bore cores, thin sections and the underground research space ONKALO. In addition, he has participated in the development and reporting of rock suitability classification for the building permission application.
"At the moment, my main duties are related to assignments in environmental monitoring and participation in research an development in the field. I am also taking part in building Posiva and TVO's joint geographic database. My days are also filled variably but regularly by presentation of ONKALO to visitors and cooperation partners as well as various reporting duties," says Pere, who graduated with a Master's degree from the University of Turku in 2011.
New ideas from fruitful discussions
Pere says that the fact that Posiva is an expert organization comprising professionals in various fields is positively evident in everyday life at Posiva. At the same time, attention must be paid to the fact that the company operates in a closely legislated field.
"Posiva provides a fertile soil for discussions and debates, when people from various fields are sitting at the same table. These discussions give rise to new and sometimes useful ideas."
"My career has taught me how closely regulated work related to the construction of a nuclear power plant is and how that is reflected in al, work stages, including documentation and safety. Both occupational safety and health and long-term safety of final disposal must be taken into account," says Pere.
Practical research and development work related to underground bedrock studies and monitoring of the surface environment have provided new learning.
The research work will not cease, even though Posiva, which has been strongly focused on research and development, will become increasingly an implementer organisation as final disposal approaches.
"For example, we will be provided with points of comparison with regard to environmental monitoring as we collect information about the current situation and later the situations during construction and use. In a manner of speaking, the research conducted now will be taken into use then:"
If a rock has fallen from the Rauma-based Pere, his guitar has not done so. Pere spends his leisure time with music and band activities, except when he is out and about collecting berries or jogging.
An assistant is anything but an organiser of routines
Merja Frisk, working as an assistant at Posiva, bases her work in the idea that controlled chaos is better uncontrolled chaos. In the work of an assistant, there are often many simultaneous unfinished tasks and many clients and the assignments of each client are naturally the most urgent.
In addition to basic assistant's duties, Frisk's days include document management and specifically determined project assistant duties in domestic and international projects. She also works as a deputy to the secretary to the senior management.
"Document management takes over half of my working time. In fact, the importance of documentation is emphasised in what we do at Posiva."
Frisk, who was born in Eurajoki, graduated from Rauma Vocational College in 1997 and earned a BBA from Satakunta University of Applied Sciences in 2002. After that, she was hoping to find a job corresponding to her educational background in her home locality.
"TVO was more familiar as a company to me than Posiva, so I first applied there. I did not get the job there but was chosen for an open position at Posiva in 2003. Posiva too was a familiar company, as I am sure it is to everyone from Eurajoki. At least, I knew what Posiva's main duty was: the final disposal of nuclear waste."
An opportunity to make your job suitable for yourself
Frisk's career at Posiva started as a clerk but her job description has since expanded a great deal.
"At Posiva, I have been able to develop myself and my job description all the time. Currently, for example, my job has a clearly international dimension. Taking part in the final disposal project means that I am part of something that has never been done anywhere before," says Frisk.
The unique nature of the project and good colleagues ensure that Frisk likes her job.
Long-term considerations are evident in all activities at Olkiluoto. Regardless of the final disposal project reaching far into the future, Frisk focuses on her daily duties.
"Among all the work and hustle and bustle, we often do not see what unique work we do."
Frisk says that everything that she needs at her job, she learned at Posiva She has also gained more experience in working with various experts.
In addition to a job, Eurajoki has given the Frisk family a good place to live. In 1999, the family bought the family's old detached house at the centre of Eurajoki, which they have been slowly renovating. Frisk likes to spend whatever time is left over with her children, husband and dog. That is, if she is not out relaxing on a solitary jog.
A whole new world opened up at Posiva
Someone with a master's degree in technology oriented in practical work must have enough challenges and new things to mull over in his work. Posiva's development engineer Petri Koho has had them since autumn 2009.
"Posiva's newspaper ad and the idea of final disposal of used fuel caught my attention. It has been interesting to participate in a unique project like this," says Koho about his career turn.
Before Posiva, he worked at two different companies designing and developing medical equipment.
When Koho started at Posiva in autumn 2009, his job description was narrower than now, but it expanded when backfill planning entered the picture.
"My time at Posiva has opened up a whole new world. We are now talking simultaneously about rock construction and various clay and rock materials. Even though project management in various fields follows the same principles, I have been given an entirely new context at Posiva.
Koho, who still lives in Tampere, studied biomaterial technology at the Tampere University of Technology. He graduated with a master's degree in technology in 2001.
Lunch table discussions teach new things
Koho, who has acquired experience in product development says that looking towards the future and excitement are essential in creating new things. This is also apparent in his work at Posiva.
"There is a 'can-do' attitude at Posiva. Safety considerations are also greatly emphasized."
Koho describes his work in an expert organization as interesting and educational. Conversations do not follow the same track, when your lunch partner at one time is a geologist, at another a rock construction expert.
"We have pleasant chats over lunch. It is interesting to listen to very varied perspectives."
The diversity of points of view has provided Koho with an opportunity to learn new things and to expand his own understanding, which makes it easier to see final disposal as a whole.
When Koho gets off work, goes orienteering or grabs a mountain bike. Physical activities are a welcome change from all the exercise his brain gets at work.