Posiva has applied for a licence to operate a deep geological repository (Photo: Posiva Oy)Finland’s radioactive waste management company, Posiva Oy, said on 30 December that it had submitted its application to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (MEAE) for an operating licence for the used fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility currently under construction at Olkiluoto. MEAE said Posiva is applying for an operating licence for a period from March 2024 to the end of 2070.

Posiva has been preparing for the disposal of used nuclear fuel for more than 40 years. Its encapsulation plant is located above ground, and the fuel repository of underground disposal facility is located in the bedrock at a depth of approximately 400-430 metres, MEAE noted.

According to the application, most of the used nuclear fuel of Posiva’s owners — Teollisuuden Voima Oyj’s Olkiluoto NPP and Fortum Power and Heat Oy’s Loviisa NPP — would be disposed of in the facility between 2024 and 2070. The disposal of all the used nuclear fuel is expected to be completed by the late 2120s. 

MEAE will organise a public consultation regarding the licence application at a later date and will then request statements from several authorities, organisations and municipalities in the affected area, and provide citizens and communities with an opportunity to express their opinions. “These statements and opinions will be taken into account when the operating licence application is processed.” MEAE said, adding that it is also prepared to organise a seminar for authorities during the licence application processing. 

The Ministry is requesting a statement on the safety of the encapsulation plant and disposal facility from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). STUK will perform an evaluation to ensure that the encapsulation plant and disposal facility have been built according to plans, that the nuclear facility as a whole can be used safely, and that the personnel of the nuclear facility have been trained to operate the facility safely. The operation and maintenance of the encapsulation plant and disposal facility will be supervised throughout their service life. As an important part of its statement, STUK will evaluate the long-term safety of the facility. 

Posiva began the construction of the encapsulation plant and disposal facility in December 2016, after being granted a construction licence by the Government in November 2015. This was the first construction licence in the world to be granted for the disposal of used nuclear fuel. Before the licence was granted, the Government issued a decision-in-principle on the construction of Posiva’s encapsulation plant and disposal facility in December 2000, which was extended in January 2002 to cover the used nuclear fuel of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant unit. Parliament approved the decision-in-principle  in May 2001 and 2002. Under that decision, Posiva launched the construction of an underground research facility, Onkalo, in 2004 under STUK supervision, which is now an integral part of the disposal facility. 

According to Posiva's CEO and President, Janne Mokka, the submittal of the application for the operating licence is a significant milestone for the entire emission-free and climate-smart nuclear energy sector. “We can all take pride in the long-term and responsible approach of the various parties in the use of nuclear energy in Finland with Posiva now having the capability to launch the first, demonstrably safe final disposal operation of used fuel in the world here in Olkiluoto. We have a solution,” he said.

Posiva said the multi-disciplinary project has required world-class expertise, and still does. Tiina Jalonen, Senior Vice President, Development, for Posiva, said that the future outlook is now promising. “In addition to engaging in the safe operational implementation of final disposal in the future, we are developing our concept further towards a more industrial solution and support the vision of our subsidiary Posiva Solutions of turning the expertise gained during the project into a successful Finnish export product,” she noted.

Photo: Posiva has applied for a licence to operate a deep geological repository (Photo: Posiva Oy)