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Immigrant-background children barred from school trip to nuclear waste dump

A school in Pori is set to complain after security guards at a nuclear waste site barred entry to pupils with an immigrant background who came for a physics field trip. The company, Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), denies racism played a role in its decision. It says some pupils' passport or ID card numbers were not provided in advance as requested.

Loppusijoituspaikan käytävä.
The Onkalo site is intended to be the first ever final repository for spent nuclear fuel rods in the world. Image: Posiva

A physics field trip ended in disappointment for children with a migrant background recently, when security at a nuclear site denied them entry. Officials at the Olkiluoto plant prevented the children from entering the nuclear waste site that will take in waste from the plant's operations, once it finally starts production.

The Onkalo site will be a deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel rods, and is intended to house them until they are benign at a depth of 520 metres beneath the bedrock in western Finland. It is planned that Onkalo will accept waste for around a hundred years, before it is filled and sealed.

Unfortunately for the migrant background pupils from Pori, they were not allowed to visit the first such repository of its kind in the world. TVO initially claimed that the children were barred because their passports state they are of unspecified nationality—the code where nationality is normally denoted (FIN for Finland, GBR for Britain etc) reads XXX.

To gain access to the nuclear waste site, as opposed to the plant at Olkiluoto, TVO systems demand nationality information.

A teacher at the school, however, says that children with those passports were excluded from the trip anyway—all those who turned up at Olkiluoto had appropriate documentation. TVO's head of communications Pasi Tuohimaa said that there must have been some other reason for the ban.

"The security guards should at that point have asked TVO's security department how to proceed," said Tuohimaa. "Then the pupils would definitely have made it into the cave. I emphasise again that this was definitely not racism."

The school has asked for a written explanation of TVO's actions.

TVO responds

Later on Wednesday, TVO issued a statement saying that foreign visitors must "provide the number of their passport or ID card. These data were not provided on some of the persons included in the visitor groups that have now been discussed in the media. The teacher who organised the visit for the school was contacted in good time in advance about the missing data, and requested to complement the data."

3.32 pm: Updated with TVO response

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