Spent fuel and radioactive waste management in Finland

Finland is on its way to be the first country in the world to start final deposition of the spent fuel from the nuclear reactors. The schedule for the project was set up in the early 1980s aiming to start the operation in the 2020s. Now the repository is almost ready and an operation license application for the repository is being processed at Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland. Responsibilities for nuclear waste management is introduced in Figure below.

Finland has five reactors in operation at two sites: Olkiluoto and Loviisa. The Finnish policy for managing radioactive waste generated in the operation and subsequent decommissioing provides for its storage in repositories located on the nuclear power plant sites. Both repositories for the operating waste were constructed already in 1990s. In both cases the spaces will be backfilled after completion of all operations. In Olkiluoto waste is packed into concrete containers and transported to the repository using a radiation-protected vehicle. In the repository, the concrete containers are placed into the LLW and ILW silos, excavated into the bedrock to the level of 70–100 meters below the ground surface. In the first stage, two silos (diameter of 24 m and height 35 m) were built (roughly 90.000 m3) and they have been in operation since 1992. The underground facility comprises an access tunnel (665 m), unloading tunnel (120 m), construction tunnel (410 m), access shaft (57 m) and the silos themselves.

In Loviisa construction work for the operating waste repository began in 1993 and operations in the repository started in 1997. Facility has been extended twice. Currently, the repository consists of the access tunnel, two shafts and four repository vaults at the depth of about 110 meters. Low level wastes are packed into steel drums which shall be disposed in two of the four vaults. The intermediate level liquid waste will be solidified and packed by concreting and disposed into one of the vaults.

The spent fuel repository consists of an underground repository at a depth of 400 – 450 m and above ground service buildings. Access routes are an inclined access tunnel and 4 vertical shafts. Construction works started in 2004 and the facility will start operation in couple of years – the operational time is about 100 years. The encapsulated fuel is transferred to the facility technical rooms in the canister lift, from there to the disposal area via central tunnel and will be deposited in the deposition holes. Holes are bored in the floors of the deposition tunnels and covered with granular bentonite.

Currently about 14 km of different kinds of tunnels have been excavated. All technical rooms, a spiral-shaped access tunnel, four vertical shafts and the first five deposition tunnels are almost ready. Operating licence application for the repository was submitted to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in the end of 2021. The application will likely be considered by the Finnish government quite soon. When operating licence is granted and the Trial Run is finished, disposal of the spent fuel can be started. First time in the world.

The total costs of the spent fuel and radioactive waste management of the Loviisa and Olkiluoto nuclear power plant units (OL1–3, LO1–2) are estimated at approximately EUR 7 billion for the entire lifetime of the power plants (at the 2020 price level). The spent fuel disposal project’s impact on employment is expected to be approximately 550 man-years per year at most. During the operational stage, the immediate annual employment impact has been estimated to be about 130 man-years. The employment impacts of the repository are major for the entire region: at most approximately 220 man-years per year. The employment effect on the municipality of Eurajoki and the region will have a significant positive impact on employment in the municipality and region. Also real estate tax paid by the plant has slowly strengthen the municipality’s income tax base.

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