Finland’s new nuclear project piques South Australia’s interest as state considers waste storage via abc news

In the small town of Eurajoki on Finland’s west coast, a passionate practice ice hockey match is underway.

The rink is one of the most popular facilities in town and it was partly funded by the nuclear industry.

“Most people think the industry has been good for the area,” local councillor Vesa Jalonen says, while we watch the game.

“We’ve been living with it since about the ’70s. It’s brought lots of benefits. There are more jobs, more welfare, taxes are second-lowest of all [municipalities] and we think the risks are kept low.”

That’s not to say people don’t worry something could go wrong.


“We are going to put the harmful radioactive waste from the reactors deep underground in a final repository,” Errki Palonen, an executive from nuclear waste management company Posiva, explains.

“It will keep it safely away … for at least 100,000 years … and as long as a million”.


What will the world be like in 100,000 years’ time?

Posiva wants to keep the waste away from humans, animals and most importantly, the water table, for at least 100,000 years.

By then it believes the waste will only be as harmful as normal background radiation.

But 100,000 years is a staggeringly long time in human terms.

Most think Ancient Egypt only formed a touch over five millennia ago and it is estimated an ice sheet only receded from parts of Finland between 8,000 and 9,000 BC.


So why is Australia interested?

By law, Finnish nuclear power companies have to find ways to safely dispose of their waste long-term.

This dump will only take radioactive material from a few local power plants and is likely to be full in about a century’s time.

By contrast, Australia, which doesn’t have nuclear power plants (or nuclear submarines), doesn’t produce any high-level waste.

But a recent royal commission found South Australia could make more than $100 billion over 120 years by building a high-level dump and burying waste from other countries deep underground.


Do we have a ‘moral’ responsibility too?

Some of the 400-odd nuclear power plants across the globe, including those in Finland, use some Australian uranium.

Our nation has the world’s biggest uranium reserves and we are the third-largest exporter.

Given we’re already playing a role in what’s known as the “nuclear energy cycle” some have argued we have a “moral” responsibility to help get rid of it.

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