FINLAND, SWEDEN CLOSE TO LICENSING OF GEOLOGICAL DISPOSAL OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL
The first official policy decisions related to the back-end of nuclear fuel cycle in Finland were made in the early 1980`s. Before that the implicit assumption had been that all the spent fuel would be transported for reprocessing abroad and, hopefully, the reprocessing wastes would stay in the country of reprocessing. However, the U.S. decision of the late 1970`s to deter reprocessing, together with the political repercussions of the Harrisburg nuclear accident led to a new situation, in which reprocessing was more and more burdened with both political and economical risks. In this new situation, also TVO, the owner of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, decided to opt for direct disposal of their spent fuel. The Finnish Government still endorsed international options, e.g., the one between Finland and the Soviet Union on the spent fuel from Loviisa nuclear power plant, but accepted the fact that such arrangements perhaps would not become available for TVO.
For a small utility in a small country the decision to prepare for an own geological repository was certainly a huge challenge, which probably would not have been possible without the ground-breaking work already done in Sweden by the SKB. Taking the Swedish KBS-3 concept as the basis of the development, TVO could concentrate on the siting program, which already then was understood to entail societal and social issues. With a systematic work TVO and its successor in waste disposal, Posiva, succeeded and were the first to choose a site for geological repository for high-level nuclear waste. At the moment SKB of Sweden and Posiva, together with Andra of France, are the most likely candidates to start disposing of spent nuclear fuel within the next 15 years or so. Posiva`s underground rock characterization facility, ONKALO, which is now close to completion and will probably be used as an access way to the repository as well, means that Posiva may at the moment be practically closest to implementation of such a repository. However, licensing is still a challenge ahead for all the three organizations.
The policy chosen by TVO in the early 1980`s and later also endorsed by the Government was largely based on economical considerations, but not only on these. Security of supply, in the context of international non-proliferation policies and regimes also played a role, as did the issues of waste handling. The pros and cons of both the reprocessing option and direct disposal option were compared in many studies of the late 1970`s and early 1980`s, but the valuations most often struck on difficulties of balancing current and future benefits and detriments. Similar discussions still arise every now and then in Finland, but so far the policy once adopted has survived the test of time.