Completion of Finnish repository review delayed

28 September 2023

Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) said its review of Posiva Oy's operating licence application for the world's first used fuel disposal facility is taking longer than expected and will not be completed by the end of this year as planned.

A rendering of the underground used fuel repository at Olkiluoto (Image: Posiva)

Radioactive waste management company Posiva submitted its application, together with related information, to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM) on 30 December 2021 for an operating licence for the used fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility currently under construction at Olkiluoto. The repository is expected to begin operations in the mid-2020s. Posiva is applying for an operating licence for a period from March 2024 to the end of 2070.

The government will make the final decision on Posiva's application, but a positive opinion by STUK is required beforehand. The ministry requested STUK's opinion on the application by the end of this year. The regulator began its review in May 2022 after concluding Posiva had provided sufficient material.

However, STUK has now said its safety assessment and opinion on the application will not be completed this year.

"Overall, STUK has progressed well in processing the application for an operating permit, but it is still in progress," the regulator said. "The data is large and STUK has also required Posiva to update parts of it. Consequently, the work has lasted longer than expected. When STUK has received the processing of the operating licence application material submitted by Posiva, it will prepare a safety assessment, which will be attached to the safety statement prepared for the operating licence application."

STUK said it is preparing to propose to the ministry to postpone the deadline for the submission of its opinion.

The regulator said it cannot estimate how long it will take to submit its opinion. "It depends not only on STUK but also on Posiva and how quickly it can deliver the missing material to us," said STUK's project manager Päivi Mäenalanen. However, he said "there is no question of any dramatic delay".

The site for Posiva's repository was selected in 2000. The Finnish parliament approved the decision-in-principle on the repository project the following year. Posiva submitted its construction licence application to TEM in December 2013. The company studied the rock at Olkiluoto and prepared its licence application using results from the Onkalo underground laboratory, which is being expanded to form the basis of the repository.

The government granted a construction licence for the project in November 2015 and construction work on the repository started in December 2016.

Once it receives the operating licence, Posiva can start the final disposal of the used fuel generated from the operation of TVO's Olkiluoto and Fortum's Loviisa nuclear power plants. The operation will last for about 100 years before the repository is closed.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News