Finland and Sweden work together in burial of nuclear waste

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finland and Sweden are working on technology for the safe burial of nuclear waste in bedrock. A partly Finnish-designed machine was on display at the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden. The purpose of the device is to transport the dangerous materials deep into caverns excavated for the purpose.

The highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel needs to be isolated for at least 100,000 years.

Sweden is preparing to bury a total of about 12,000 tonnes of radioactive uranium waste.

SKB, which is responsible for handling the nuclear waste generated by Sweden’s nuclear power plants, is testing the technology developed for the final storage of the waste in a laboratory set up at a depth of more than 400 metres.

The waste capsules, weighing up to 27 tonnes each, are to be placed in holes drilled inside the rock. The technical development work is in its final stages, and the company plans to apply for a permit to excavate a permanent storage area next year.

The device that was unveiled in Oskarshamn on Wednesday, is a prototype of a machine which automatically takes the encapsulated waste to its subterranean holes. The device uses lasers and carefully designed software to navigate in the system of tunnels covering an area of about four square kilometres.

The software is designed in Finland.

“This navigation uses the same technology, in principle, which is used on modern mining equipment”, said Thomas von Numers of the Espoo-based company Navitec Systems. “The purpose of automation was to eliminate the possibility of human error.

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