Sweden and Finland are the role model in the management of spent nuclear fuel: this is their strategy

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«Currently in Spain we are storing the nuclear fuel burned individually in each of the nuclear power plants. This requires that the spent fuel elements be removed from the pool, placed in special containers and taken to storage platforms.’

“We have always thought that it is better to have centralized storage because it would be cheaper and would allow us to better deal with security managementbut distributed storage is certainly another solution.”

Ignacio Araluce, the president of Foro Nuclear and former director of the Almaraz nuclear power plant, explained to us during the conversation we had with him at the end of 2019 what is the strategy that Spain is currently using to deal with radioactive waste generated by nuclear fission reactors.

His explanation invites us to wonder whether this solution does not compromise the safety of nuclear power plants given the relative proximity of spent fuel to the reactors that remain in operation, so we take the opportunity to send you our concerns. His response was reassuring:

“This is a very widespread solution all over the world. The fuel elements are stored in absolutely watertight containers, in this case manufactured in Spain by a company with one of the best technologies in the world, and which, therefore, sells to other countries. They are designed to withstand any earthquake, drop or other accident, and can last millions of years. They have no impact on the safety of the nuclear facility itself.”

However, there are alternatives to this high level nuclear waste management model. Sweden and Finland have approved in recent weeks the implementation of an end solutionand, according to experts in these countries, safe, for spent nuclear fuel.

The strategy these countries have opted for consists of fine-tuning a deep geological store that will allow them to definitively confine high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.

Sweden and Finland, the first countries to commit to a deep geological repository

The possibility of storing nuclear waste in this type of repositories has been in the sights of the countries that have nuclear power plants for many years, but the first to implement this strategy are going to be these two Nordic countries. And it is that the companies that will be responsible for starting them up have already received approval for its construction.

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In practice, the implementation of deep geological deposits will allow the extraction of the burned fuel from the storage pools and platforms in which, as Ignacio Araluce has explained, it has been provisionally stored until now. Its purpose is to act as final and secure warehouses in which nuclear waste can remain for hundreds, or even thousands of years.

It is essential that these deposits reside in very stable sites from a geological point of view, and, therefore, with very little seismic activity.

The most delicate decision that not only Sweden and Finland have faced, but also all the countries that are considering the implementation of this type of repositories, is choosing your location. And it is that, as we can guess, it is essential that they reside in very stable locations from a geological point of view, and, therefore, with very little seismic activity.

Agp Positive Photo

Construction of the world’s first deep geological repository has already started in Olkiluoto, Finland. Photography: Positive.

Finland has invested more than four decades in the analyses, trials, tests and research that it has had to undertake to find the safest location for its deep geological repository. Finally, it will be housed in a bedrock 500 meters deep located on the island of Olkiluoto, on the west side of the country. Its construction has already begun, and the Finnish authorities plan to start it up in the middle of this decade. It will be the first with these characteristics in the world.

The Finnish authorities expect their first deep geological deposit to come into operation in the middle of this decade

Sweden’s deep geological repository will be located in the municipality of Östhammar, on the country’s east coast. It will allow the confinement of 12,000 tons of fuel at a depth of 500 meters for the purpose of keep it isolated from the biosphere, which is the environment in which all living beings on the planet develop our lives and our interactions. After all, the purpose of these warehouses is to isolate nuclear waste in a safe location where it cannot pose a risk to living beings, even in the very long term.

Forsmark Repository And Sfr Skb

This is what the deep geological repository that will be housed in Östhammar (Sweden) will look like. Recreation: SBK.

In fact, the safety studies carried out by Finland and Sweden have foreseen the changes that the physical space in which their deep geological deposits are going to be installed may experience, not only due to the impact of earthquakes; have also contemplated the possibility of new ice ages occurring in a time frame of up to a million years. There is no doubt that in this area taking extreme precautions is always a good idea.

More information | Nuclear Forum

«Currently in Spain we are storing the nuclear fuel burned individually in each of the nuclear power plants. This requires…

«Currently in Spain we are storing the nuclear fuel burned individually in each of the nuclear power plants. This requires…

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