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Questions Arise About Nuclear Waste Depository Plans

The timetable for creating an underground facility for the final disposal of spent fuel from Finland's nuclear plants may prove to be too tight. A construction licence will be needed no later than late next year, but some questions have now come up about the safety of plan.

Posivan ydinjätteen loppusijoituspaikan rakennustöitä Olkiluodossa
Image: Tapio Termonen / Yle

Posiva, which is owned by the power utilities TVO and Fortum, plans to have the facility deep in the bedrock at Olkiluoto ready to begin operations by 2020.

In order to do so, it needs official approval of current plans. There will also be a need for expansion in order to fit in spent fuel from the two new reactors that Parliament is likely to approve before going on summer recess. The schedule calls for Posiva to file an application for a construction licence late next year.

Time is running short, if the company is to stay on schedule. There are still questions that need to be answered, especially about the reliability of the barrier that will surround the canisters holding the radioactive waste.

A researcher working with the project recently contacted YLE with the claim that Posiva is cutting corners at the expense of safety. The source, who does not want to be named, says the company is hiding data.

Posiva's research director Juhani Vira admits the timetable is tight, but denies any cover-up of problems.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority says it hasn't even heard rumours of irregularities, but it will be reviewing plans once a formal construction licence application is flied and will keep a close eye on the project.

The final disposal project will not directly affect the probable construction of more nuclear power plants. This latest twist does, however, show that dealing with the waste is more complex than the public has been led to believe.

Sources: YLE

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