Progress on used fuel disposal in Finland

27 June 2016

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for disposal of used nuclear fuel from Finland's Hanhikivi-1 NPP being built by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom at Pyhäjokil has been submitted to the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy (MEE) by operator Fennovoima Oy. This followed signing of a service agreement between Fennovoima Oy and Posiva Solutions Ltd, a marketing division of Posiva Oy, which will enable Fennovoima to benefit from Posiva Oy's expertise in used fuel management.

Posiva is jointly owned by Finland's established nuclear utilities, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) and Fortum, which will be able to dispose of used fuel from their current and future plants in a deep geological repository to be built by Posiva near TVO's existing Olkiluoto NPP. In Finland, each nuclear power company is responsible for the final disposal of its own spent nuclear fuel and related costs.

In accordance with a decision-in-principle granted by the Finnish government in 2010, Fennovoima was obliged to submit to MEE by the end of June 2016 either an EIA programme for its own disposal facility or a final disposal cooperation agreement with Posiva to participate in the repository project at Olkiluoto.

Posiva Solutions, a newly established subsidiary of Posiva, will provide Fennovoima with services related to the final disposal of used fuel. These will include the planning and developing of the final disposal of used fuel at the Hanhikivi-1. The agreement includes ecological studies and geological surveys at two potential sites, Pyhäjoki, near the Hanhikivi site, and at Eurajoki, which is the site of the Onkalo final repository being built by Posiva for TVO and Fortum. Final disposal will begin in the 2090s at the earliest.

Fennovoima said it will examine Eurajoki as a whole and in addition to Onkalo there are unstudied areas in Eurajoki. The company said it is "premature" to say if Fennovoima's used fuel will go to Onkalo. Site selection will not become an issue until the 2040s, Fennovoima said. The capacity of Onkalo will become clear in the 2020s "at the earliest". Posiva has been developing a solution for the final disposal of used fuel since the 1970s and has carried R&D at the Onkalo characterisation facility.

The site for Posiva's repository at Eurajoki near Olkiluoto was selected in 2000. In December 2013, it submitted the application to MEE, for the construction of an encapsulation plant and repository, as well as for facilities for the final disposal of waste created during the operation and decommissioning of the encapsulation plant. Final disposal operations at Olkiluoto are expected to begin around 2020 and to last for some 100 years before the repository is sealed.

Fennovoima stressed that the project "will span over decades": a location will be selected in the 2040's and the final disposal of Fennovoima's used nuclear fuel will begin "at the earliest in the 2090s". Fennovoima's CEO Toni Hemminki said: "Our goal is to achieve long term cooperation with Posiva and the parties liable for nuclear waste management (TVO and Fortum)."

Posiva president Janne Mokka said, "Taking care of TVO's and Fortum's nuclear waste management obligation is a large-scale and essential project for Posiva." He added, "The agreement between Posiva Solutions and Fennovoima does not affect this nor does it include disposal of Fennovoima's used nuclear fuel in Onkalo."

Fennovoima aims to complete infrastructure work at the Hanhikivi site in Pyhäjoki in northern Finland by the end of 2017. Construction of the plant - based on a Russian-designed 1,200MWe AES-2006 VVER can only start once the construction licence has been issued. Fennovoima said it aims to start building the plant in 2018 for operation in 2024.

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