Deep Geological Repository

It is planned that the spent fuel from Sizewell C&D will be moved to a final ‘geological repository’ in about 21301. At a recent consultation meeting EDF gave the impression that the technology to do so was well understood and that deep geological repositories already exist in Finland and Sweden.

This is far from the truth. The repository in Finland (operated by Posiva) is currently in the evaluation stage and is not expected to start operation until 20202. The proposed repository in Sweden (operated by SKB) is scheduled to start operation in 20253 (Note that I originally gave the date of 2070, however this is the date when construction will be complete but spent will start being placed in the repository from 2025 – thanks to Simon Carroll for pointing this out – see comment below). There are also many concerns about the ability to seal spent fuel from the environment for a sufficient amount of time4.

Both repositories are relatively small compared to amount of spent fuel which will be generated by the UK nuclear programme. The repository at Olkiluoto in Finland will hold 6200T of spent fuel while that at Forsmark in Sweden will hold about 12000T. If Hinkley and Sizewell C&D go ahead they will produce 7200T of spent fuel5. In the UK some of the reactor fuel may be reprocessed, however at leat another 12,000T will be needed to be stored6.

1 Spent Fuel Management – EDF Energy Perspective,EDF Energy March 2012 (

2 General Time Schedule for Final Disposal, Posiva (

3 A repository for nuclear fuel in 1.9 billion year old bedrock, Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB  (

4 Olkiluoto waste dump: Deadly legacy under the Baltic Sea, Greenpeace 2010 (

5 Amounts of spent fuel in the repository is taken from references 2 and 3. However it must be noted that there is a difference between the amount expressed in tonnes of Uranium and tonnes of UO2 – 5500T of uranium is equal to 6240T of UO2 – you have to multiply by the molecular mass of UO2 (270) and divide by the atomic mass of Urnaium (238).

6 Spent Fuel Management: Life Cycle Analysis Model, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority 2007 (


One Response to “Deep Geological Repository”

  • Simon says:

    I think you are mistaken that SKB’s spent fuel final repository will only start operation in 2070.

    SKB is expecting to start construction in 2019, and aims to have the final repository for spent nuclear fuel completed in the middle of the 2020s. Operation will start shortly thereafter.

    The confusion might arise because SKB plans to continue with excavation of new tunnels in parallel with the start up of disposal in the completed tunnels. This will continue for about 40 years until all nuclear fuel has been deposited in the repository, that is until about 2070.

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