to the Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry

Comments on the environmental impact assessment

of the planned 4th reactor Olkiluoto 4

My comment will be focused partly on the location of the reactor in view of new geological findings, and partly on the safety of nuclear waste deposition according to the KBS-3 method

1. The location of the reactor

The Olikiluoto peninsula has recently been shown to be surrounded by active faults that experienced a violent earthquake some 9900 years BP.

This drastically changes the assumed safety of the area, a fact which has not been considered in a proper way in the analyses.

Furthermore, reactors should not be run or built unless the handling of the nuclear waste is not “solved” in a way that guarantee a long-term safety for at least 100,000 years. No such “guarantees” are at hand today; rather facts indicating the opposite (point 2).

2. The long-term safety of a KBS-3 repository

The nuclear waste produced in Finland is to be placed underground in a KBS-3 repository. This repository is said to fully safe for at least 100,000 years.

Such “guarantees” are necessary both in Finland and Sweden for the decision of the use of the KBS-3 method. If a 100,000 year’s safety cannot be guaranteed, the method cannot be applied.

It is a prime mistake in the environmental impact assessment not to realise that there, in fact, are no guarantees at all of a 100,000 year’s safety. Let me review the situation.

2.1. The idea of a “final deposition”

One would have assumed that the hanling of the nuclear wast deposition would have been characterized by free search for ”the best available method” . This was never the case. Instead, authorities in Finland and Sweden rapidly stopped for a ”final deposition” according to the KBS-3 method. The environmental impact assessment should have noted this.

The idea of a “final deposition” came out of an utterly wrong and old geological picture of the late 1970ies. At that time, the concept of “stability” still remained; today demolished and gone.

Today, we know for sure that there is no “safety” to lean on in the future perspective of 100,000 years or so. On the opposite, we now know that Fennoscandia was a high-seismic area after the Ice Age, with fault displacements, bedrock fracturing and methane explosions.

Therefore, we can no longer talk about a long-term safety of a KBS-3 repository; at least not with an anchoring in modern geoscientific achievements.

In this situation, the environmental impact assessment should have demanded an opening of the repository case and a renewed search for “the best available method”.

Personally, I am convinced that such a search would call for quite another method than the old KBS-3 method.

2.2. The Earthquake scenario

The understanding of Fennoscandian paleoseismicity has undergone a revolution in the last decades. Numerous faults of postglacial age are recorded in Finland, some even cutting right across old “bedrock blocks” surrounded by weak zones and hence clamed to be totally stable over time. In Sweden, there is a paleoseismic catalogue including 58 high-magnitude events, with several events reaching above 8 on the Richter Scale.

In such a seismic environment, A KBS-3 repository can hardly be left intact and undamaged; on the contrary, serious damage is to be expected

2.3. The talk about a safe ”respect distance”

In order to be able to find room enough to locate a KBS-3 repository in the bedrock, it was claimed that the canisters could be placed “50-100 m from a regional fault line”. This is a quite remarkable statement that has no validity. Observational facts would rather call for a distance of 50-100 km (i.e. a 1000-time difference).

I am surprised that the environmental impact assessment did not understand this very serious “weakness”, because without their “respect distances”, the KBS-3 method falls.

2.4. Methane explosions

In my book “Paleoseismicity of Sweden – a novel paradigm” (2003), I was able to show that the Fennoscandian bedrock, indeed, had experienced several explosions in the past when methane ice (in voids, hollows and fractures) transformed into gas when rock pressure decreased (with the land uplift) and temperature rose (after the Ice Age). The last event occurred 2000 BP and set up a tsunami wave of 20 m.

This novel factor is not yet considered in the nuclear waste handling programs. Still, it effectively invalidates all talk about a safe long-term deposition.

This has to be considered by the environmental impact assessment.

2.5. Climate and Future Ice Ages

One it was arrogantly claimed that “Ice Ages have no effects” on a KBS-3 repository. We now know that future glaciations will pose enormous problems (points 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4).

3. Conclusions

There is much to be added and considered for a reliable environmental impact assessment.

Saltsjöbaden den 7 juli, 2007

Nils-Axel Mörner

Head of Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics at Stockholm University (1991-2005)

Member of Milkas (from 2005)


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