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Comprehensive environmental management

Teollisuuden Voima’s environmental management system covers the company’s existing OL1 and OL2 nuclear plants, the new OL3 unit currently under construction, and fuel purchasing for the Meripori coal-fired power plant – and is based on the principle of continuous improvement.
Teollisuuden Voima Oyj

Teollisuuden Voima’s ISO 14001:2004-certified and EMAS-registered environmental management system covers the entire life cycle of nuclear energy generation. As part of its commitment to continuous improvement, the company has defined 17 key environmental issues – such as waste reduction, sorting, and recycling – as the basis for further improvement.

TVO monitors the immediate and surrounding environment at Olkiluoto constantly, and is committed to a programme of continuous improvement in its environmental performance. In addition to ISO 14001:2004 certification, TVO is also the only EMAS (Eco-management and Audit Scheme) registered utility in Finland.

The aim is to produce as little conventional waste as possible, and utilise, recycle, or burn any waste that is generated. Unrecyclable waste is disposed of at an on-site landfill that was commissioned in November 2007. Substantially smaller than the one it replaced, this has been designed for a 40-year lifetime.

The amount of landfill waste has steadily dropped as recycling efficiency has improved. The primary components of recyclable waste are paper and board, metal, wood, biowaste, glass, and energy waste. Algae, fish, and rubbish are collected via screens installed at cooling water inlets and processed.

The volume of conventional waste produced by the new OL3 nuclear plant now under construction will be 50% less than the combined total produced by the OL1 and OL2 units; and the plan is to further reduce volumes in possible future plants.

Radioactive waste management

Radioactive waste at Olkiluoto is classified into three categories: low-level waste, intermediate-level waste, and high-level waste, which includes spent nuclear fuel.

Spent fuel assemblies are transferred from the site’s reactors into ponds to cool for a few years. Radioactivity drops to one hundredth of the original level during the course of a year, and to one thousandth of the original level after storage. The assemblies are then packed and transferred to an interim storage facility to await final disposal at the site, which is due to start in 2020.

Access to the silos for low-level and intermediate-level waste at Olkiluoto’s final repository is 60 metres below ground, and the silos themselves measure 35 metres from top to bottom.

Intermediate-level waste, such as liquids and ion-exchange resins containing radioactive fission products, is packed into steel drums and mixed with bitumen before being placed in silos 60 to 110 metres underground at the site’s final repository. Low-level waste, such as protective plastics, overalls, and gloves used in annual outages, is packed into steel drums and transferred to the same facility.

Looking beyond OL3

TVO has initiated plans for further expansion at Olkiluoto and carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a fourth unit (OL4) comprising a boiling water or pressurised water reactor capable of generating 1,000 to 1,800 MW of electricity.

The comprehensive environmental monitoring that has been in place at Olkiluoto and the surrounding area since the early 1970s provides a good basis for assessing the probably combined environmental impact of OL4 and existing operations.

The EIA report covered the complete life cycle, from fuel production to the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, and its impact on people and society, the aquatic environment and fisheries, land usage and landscape, soil and bedrock, groundwater, flora, and fauna. The assessment also covered atmospheric emissions, noise, waste, traffic and transportation, power lines, accidents, as well as decommissioning, and the likely impact of the project on employment, the economy, and businesses in the region.

The most significant environmental impact during operation of the new plant will be the heat transferred from cooling water to local seawater.

OL3

The new nuclear plant currently under construction at Olkiluoto and due to come on stream in 2011 is a pressurised water reactor of the EPR (European Pressurized Water Reactor) type, capable of generating around 1,600 MW of electricity. The design represents the latest in light water reactor technology, and is based on the N4 plants in France and the Konvoi plants in Germany, with the addition of new features to further improve safety, generating capacity, and reliability.

The OL3 project is being implemented on a turnkey basis by a Franco-German consortium comprising AREVA NP, which is responsible for the reactor, and Siemens, which is responsible for the turbine island.

> Anna-Liisa Montonen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)