“We have a solution for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel”
Finland is the first country that will put into operation a facility for the safe disposal of spent fuel to store in a definite way the high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel generated in the country. We spoke with Tiina Jalonen, Senior Vice President of Development at Posiva, the company in charge of the final management of this type of waste.
Following the recent request for an operating license for the Finnish final repository, in an article published by Posiva and in this interview granted to Foro Nuclear, the Senior Vice President of Development at Posiva indicates that "there is a final and safe solution to isolate spent nuclear fuel."
Finland's final repository will be followed by Sweden's which received the construction license in February 2022. Tiina Jalonen trusts that many other contries will follow that path, because "the geological final disposal deep in the bedrock is the method which, of the studied alternatives, offers the best solution for waste products."
“The analyses, tests and research work on the geological final disposal carried out for over four decades reflect that the site is safe"
Long-term safety as a priority
Tiina Jalonen, Senior Vice President of Development at Posiva (Finland), is clear and firm in her arguments: "The geological final disposal deep in the bedrock is the method which, of the studied alternatives, offers the best solution for isolating the high level radioactive spent fuel from the biosphere, i.e., from the living environment of people and the rest of organic nature. It is, therefore, a safe solution that offers promising perspectives for the future."
Delving deeper into the issue of safety, Tiina Jalonen points out that "according to the international definition, the safety case refers to all technological and scientific materials, analysis, observations, trials, tests and other proof used to justify the reliability of the assessments made of the long-term safety of final disposal." She adds that "the more than four decades of research work is transformed into a detailed description of the geological final disposal, analyzing different evolutionary paths and demonstrating the safety of the final disposal in the conditions of Olkiluoto bedrock." Olkiluoto is the site in Finland where this facility has been built.
"Finland's Geological Final Disposal will be operative in the mid-2020s"
Posiva's Senior Vice President of Development also explains that "the safety case takes acount of the verious changes occurring in nature over the long term, such as possible earthquakes in the far future and future ice ages up to a timeframe of a million years."
This repository, which offers a final solution for Finland's spent fuel, is expected to be operative in the mid-202's and will be the first storage facility of its kind as well as "an example to the world", according to Posiva. For the company's Senior Vice President of Development, "it's a great leap to take when moving from research and development to construction and installation, and finally to operation of a nuclear facility", which is currently awaiting an operating license from the Finnish Government.
A final storage solution for other countries
Tiina Jalonen hopes this final storage solution for waste becomes a generalized tendency around the world. "The safety case compiled for Posiva's application for the operating licence is the outcome of more than 40 years of research and demonstrates the safety of the final disposal," she assures, adding that Posiva is "helping other countries to proceed in their nuclear waste management programmes." Specifically, Sweden is following in Finland's steps. At the beginning of the year, the Swedish Government approved the construction of the final storage facility for its spent fuel.
34% of Finland's electricity comes from its operating reactors
The important role of nuclear power
In this expert's opinion, "Posiva has resolved final disposal in a safe manner, thus enabling the operation of nuclear power plants in Finland and in the world also in the future." According to date from the International Atomic Energy Agency, currently Finland has five nuclear reactors in operation in Lovisa and Olkiluoto. In 2020, 34% of the country's electricity came from nuclear power.
“Nuclear power will have a big role in fighting against climate change in Finland and in the world"
Posiva's Senior Vice President of Development considers that "nuclear energy will have a big role in fighting against climate change in Finland and in the world. More and more people are understanding that spent nuclear fuel is a minor problem to the globe in comparison to climate change. The nuclear industry is the only industry in the wrold that knows where its waste will be after 100,000 years and after the next ice age. And even then, it will be in a safe place."
“Spent nuclear fuel is a minor problem to the globe in comparison to climate change"
"The more you know, the less you fear"
But... how do you get public acceptance for this type of repository? "by building trust since the beginning of the use of the Olkiluoto reactors from the seventies. The more you know, the less you fear," declares Jalonen.
"Stakeholder engagement and public acceptance are linked to all of Posiva's activities," she adds. "Everything Posiva does is transparent and we are open, proactive and understandable in our communications. Trust is built slowly and building it must be taken care of from the very beginning of operations and throughout the long lifetime of a final disposal project."
“Transparency involves open communications with many stakeholders"
Tiina Jalonen assures that "the employees' engagement also plays a big part in building trust. In the region around Olkiluoto everybody knows a family member or a friend who works or has worked in the plant. They know our safety culture and they know what we do. Transparency involves open communications with many stakeholders and in many different ways." Moreover, she concludes, "utilizing multiple media platforms to improve availability and transparency is effective; however, it has to be done systematically."
We end this interview summarizing the words from this Posiva executive, with a clear vision of a promising future, not just for nuclear power in her country and in the rest of the world but also for the construction of this type of storage facilities to safely manage the final disposition of spent nuclear fuel. To learn more about how this site works you can visit the video below.
(Cover photo: Posiva)