Finland a world leader in dealing with nuclear waste
by Sandy Lindsay

December 4, 2015


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While over the past decade, Canada has fallen behind when it comes to climate change, it would appear that we may be in the same 'fall behind' boat when it comes to the storage of nuclear ... whether it's low and intermediate storage or spent fuel.

Now, I may be a lay-person (putting it mildly) when it comes to nuclear, but I do read and I did attend all the recent hearings held in Bruce County whereby, a Joint Review Panel (JRP) of highly qualified experts, listened to testimonies and read thousands of pages of documentation.  The conclusion of the panel after much deliberation?  It is paramount for the "SAFETY" of future generations that nuclear waste must be dealt with NOW in this generation. I agree with that.

Finland's government  announced last month (November/15) that it has given approval for a licence to begin construction on a deep geologic repository (DGR) at Olkiluoto, the first in the world for spent nuclear fuel.

According to a media release, "Finland is an international pioneer in nuclear waste management" and, here is the key, "...which obliges us to take care of matters responsibly and safely for the future." 

The government approved Posiva Oy’s plan to construct a spent nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and disposal facility on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland and, according to reports, local people have accepted the plan. Once built, the facility will have the capability of storing up to 6,500 tonnes of nuclear waste in copper cannisters approximately 400 metres underground which will then be packed with bentonite clay.  Once capacity is reached, it will then be sealed for the next 100,000 years, the life expectancy of the radioactivity.  In Finland, since 1988, funding has been set aside by nuclear generating utilities each to ensure there would be enough money to building a DGR.

Sweden, too, is in the planning stages for a DGR to be managed by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company.  There, a willing host community will receive compensation to allow a waste facility that will house waste 500 meters below ground.  It is expected that a final decision will be made next year (2016) or 2017.

In North America, Allison Macfarlane, former Chair of the Nuclear Regulator Commission in the United States, and Professor of Science and Technology at George Washington University, has pointed out that other countries agree that DGRs are the "...best method for disposing of nuclear waste and every country needs an organization to manage waste disposal ..."

She goes on to say that a long-term storage site should be built in a geologically stable environment, i.e., not where it could be impacted by volcanoes or earthquakes. Other siting criteria include the need for low groundwater content and flow, the absence of oxygen, sufficient depth to avoid erosion, and the site to be located far from natural resources so future generations would not be tempted to dig there.

According to all the experts at the JRP hearings, all these criteria have been met in Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization's (NWMO) studies, that have been ongoing for more than a decade, to site a DGR in Bruce County near the largest nuclear plant (Bruce Power) in the world.

While Finland and Sweden are progressively moving forward on safely taking care of the nuclear waste that has already been created and exists, Germany is marching forward into regression with a policy to move from reliable, clean nuclear energy into coal-based energy production ... a catalyst of climate change.


In the year 2000, nuclear power made up 29.5 percent of Germany’s energy. In 2015, the share dropped down to 17 percent, and by 2022 the country intends to have every one of its nuclear plants shutdown.  The result?  Germany’s CO2 emissions have risen by 28 million tons each year after changing its nuclear policy.  While the rest of the world is trying to solve climate change, Germany appears to be going down the road that leads to it.

In Ontario, coal-fired plants have been shut down, a positive and progressive move for the climate.  That leaves nuclear produced energy to primarily meet today's voracious appetite for electric power.

So, that leaves the waste resulting from the power source.

Why would we leave nuclear waste above ground where it could be subject to catastrophic weather (e.g. Goderich tornado) or, heaven forbid, subject  to a fanatic's threat? 

The naysayers against nuclear and, thereby, a deep geologic repository, say let's leave it (nuclear waste) where it is for future generations to solve the problem. They 'may' come up with a solution.  

Why would we NOT want to take care of what we have created, just as we take care of our own garbage and recyclables?  Do we let our refuse sit outside on the front lawn and say, we are leaving it there for our grandchildren to do something with it? Sure, nuclear waste is on a bigger scale but, the principle is the same. 

We, the world today, have created nuclear waste ... we, the world today, should be doing something about it ... that something is to store it safely.  Something that Finland has already figured out.

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Friday, December 04, 2015