A view of the world's first underground repository for highly radioactive nuclear waste at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant on April 28, 2016, on the island of Eurajoki, western Finland. AFP / Sam Kingsley
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Deep underground on a lush green island, Finland is preparing to bury its highly radioactive nuclear waste for 100,000 years – sealing it up and maybe even throwing away the key. Tiny Olkiluoto, off Finland's west coast, will become home to the world's costliest and longest-lasting burial ground, a network of tunnels called Onkalo – Finnish for "The Hollow". Starting in 2020, Finland plans to stow around 5,500 tons of nuclear waste in the tunnels, more than 420 meters below the Earth's surface.Already home to one of Finland's two nuclear power plants, Olkiluoto is now the site of a tunneling project set to cost up to 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion) until the 2120s, when the vaults will be sealed for good.At present, Onkalo consists of a twisting 5-kilometer tunnel with three shafts for staff and ventilation.The temperature is cool and the bedrock is extremely dry – crucial if the spent nuclear rods are to be protected from the corrosive effects of water. The waste is expected to have lost most of its radioactivity after a few hundred years, but engineers are planning for 100,000, just to be on the safe side.
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