Updates on the Swedish and Finnish Nuclear Waste Disposal Plans

By Environment North member Kerstin Muth

Deep geological disposal still undergoing scrutiny

No country in the world has an operational final disposal site for “high level nuclear waste” - the used nuclear fuel bundles from nuclear power reactors. Finland selected a disposal site in 2000, initial excavation for the disposal facility's access tunnel began in 2004 and the deep repository's construction phase began in 2016.  Sweden selected a disposal site in 2009. Both countries are still in the process of assessing the deep geological multi-barrier disposal system which consist of sealed metal canisters for the fuel bundles, which are then surrounded by a bentonite material, backfill and the surrounding rock. 

Sweden: Still studying copper canister corrosion

In August 2021, the Swedish government announced that it wishes to further study the copper canisters which would contain the used fuel bundles. As a result the licence for the nuclear waste facility will be delayed. In the interim the government has allowed increased capacity of the intermediate waste storage site.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste are to evaluate recent research relating to the copper canisters including copper corrosion. The issue of copper corrosion of the canisters is critical to the long-term safety of the nuclear waste disposal facility.
For more information click on the following links:
Swedish Government decides on intermediate storage and continues to examine the copper canister, MKG swedish NGO
MKG and member organisations to the government: Say no to the spent fuel repository or continue to investigate copper corrosion, MKG swedish NGO

Finland: Operating licence will depend on the results of the test tunnel

Finland is in the process of preparing a “joint functional test” tunnel at their nuclear waste disposal site called Onkalo. When the tunnel is complete they will survey and image the surrounding bedrock to make sure no problems have been caused by the excavation such as water flow paths. In 2023, canisters without the nuclear fuel will be placed in the rock as per their disposal system and then monitored. An operating licence for the disposal facility can only be granted if the test is successful.
For more information click on the link below:
Construction of test disposal tunnel under way at Onkalo : Waste & Recycling - World Nuclear News (world-nuclear-news.org)