Finland has become the first country in the world to give a construction license for a permanent underground nuclear waste repository, the center-right government said on Thursday.
It approved Posiva Oy’s plan to construct a spent nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and disposal facility at the island of Olkiluoto, western Finland. Local people have accepted the plan.
Up to 6,500 tonnes of uranium may be deposited in the facility, some 450 meters (490 yards) below the surface in the granite bedrock. It is estimated to become operational from around 2023.
The world has 270,000 tonnes of used fuel stockpiled, much of it under water in ponds at nuclear power stations, adding to the urgency of finding a permanent storage solution for material that can remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.
In Posiva’s disposal process, the waste will be packed in copper canisters and transferred into tunnels and further into deposition holes lined with bentonite buffer. Construction is expected to cost just under a billion euros, and the total cost estimate, including operational costs for 100 years, is 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion).
Before the repository can go operational, Posiva must yet again analyze its environmental impacts, including the ability to retrieve the nuclear waste if necessary as well as the transport risks.