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IAEA Chief Visits Finnish Spent Fuel Disposal Site

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano tours the underground rock characterization facility (ONKALO), a nuclear waste repository, during his official visit to Posiva Oy, Olkiluoto, Finland on 23 August 2012. The group photo is taken in the underground characterization facility, ONKALO, in the demonstration tunnel one, at about 420 meters depth. (Photo: Helka Suomi/Posiva)

On a two-day official visit to Finland from 22 to 24 August 2012, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano travelled to the west coast of Finland and was briefed on the construction of Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant and the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository underground characterization facility, both sited on Olkiluoto Island. Onkalo is a forerunner facility for the planned spent nuclear fuel repository.

At the repository, he viewed the galleries that extend through granite bedrock for several kilometres at a depth of almost half a kilometre below the surface.

New Nuclear Power Plant

Following his briefing, the Director General noted in his press remarks that he was impressed by the engineers' and designers' diligence in research and testing, as well as by their commitment to safety, that he observed in the Nuclear Power Plant's construction.

Olkiluoto 3, whose design incorporates advanced safety features, will be Finland's fifth nuclear power reactor. "The enhanced safety of such a nuclear power plant is well worth the necessary additional investment of time and funding," he said.

The Director General also stated that the engineers' on-going effort to ensure the highest levels of safety is further evidence of an effective and exacting regulatory authority's influence on the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant. He said that the Finnish radiation and nuclear safety authority, STUK, is a "strong, competent partner for the IAEA," and their approach is "a model of how new nuclear power plant building should be approached: safety comes first."

Final Repository

In his press briefing, the Director General recalled that the search for a solution for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel was often considered to be infeasible and an impassable bottleneck for nuclear power development. "The current status of the Onkalo underground characterization facility and the Finnish plans for constructing a spent nuclear fuel repository offers a good example that permanent disposal solutions can be found. The disposal site is not theory but a fact," he said.

"This development is good news for Finland and for the world, since Finland's success as a forerunner in mastering this significant engineering challenge will offer alternatives for other nations seeking to sustainably and responsibly manage spent fuel."

The Director General said the exhaustive Finnish research to acquire the needed assurance that the repository will meet the IAEA's and Finland's stringent environmental and safety standards for the long-term disposal of spent fuel is a welcome indication of the Finnish authorities' capacity to successfully manage nuclear waste. "Nuclear power's success always depends upon setting nuclear safety as the preeminent priority, especially following the Fukushima accident," he concluded.

High-level Meetings

On 22 August 2012, Director General Amano met Finnish President, Sauli Niinstö, at the President's official residence in M�ntyniemi. The Director General also met Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Jyri Häkämies, Minister of Economic Affairs; Tero Varjoranta, Director General of STUK; as well as senior officials dealing with energy issues in the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

In Helsinki, he addressed the Annual Meeting of the Finnish Ambassadors.


Energy Mix

Finland's most important energy sources are nuclear power (26%), hydropower (15%), coal (12%), bio mass (12%), natural gas (11%) and peat (6%); of which about 16% was imported.

Olkiluoto 3 Nuclear Power Plant

The Olkiluoto 3 Nuclear Power Plant, now under construction, is a 1 600 megawatt pressurized water reactor whose advanced safety features include four separate safety systems, leak-proof containment, stronger structures that can withstand impact from aircraft or internal overpressure.

Onkalo Spent Fuel Repository

The final disposal at the Onkalo spent fuel repository is scheduled to start in 2020. The repository's disposal capacity is designed to accept spent fuel from Finnish nuclear power plants at Olkiluoto and Loviisa for about a century until 2120, when the repository will be sealed.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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