Finland’s Nuclear Waste: 100,000 Years of Poison Into Eternity


Into Eternity is a feature documentary film by Danish director Michael Madsen, released in 2010. It follows the plan to construct Onkalo Waste Repository deep underground, designed to last 100,000 years, at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant on the island in the Baltic Sea called Olkiluoto, Finland. “Onkalo” is Finnish for “hiding place.”

nuclear waste, FinlandThe tunnel entrance to the waste repository has a length of 3 miles (5 km), and spirals downward to a depth of about 1,378 feet (420 meters), or about half the height of the world’s current record-holder for tallest building in the world. The inner part of the Scandinavian designed Russian doll-like storage canisters are composed of copper, tucked into bedrock, impervious to sinking permafrost, rising water, earthquakes, and copper-eating microbes. Hence, the case of Onkalo considers experiments on copper corrosion in running groundwater flow. Excavation on the project was commenced in 2004. A final decision on the license application is expected by the Finnish government in 2012.

Into Eternity’s” director, Michael Madsen, is fascinated by [an imagined future so distant that it seems beyond the grasp of human cognition]. He frames the documentary as a direct message to beings living thousands of human generations in the future. In a series of interviews with prominent members of engineers and advisors from the nuclear authorities of Finland and Sweden, he raises some tough questions. For instance, how can contemporary humans prevent distant future generations of humans from entering Onkalo? Can we trust thousands of future generations to transmit warnings about the site, or are we better off encouraging them to forget its location? Even if these future beings can decipher the messages left at the site, will they dismiss them as myth – just as contemporary scientists dismiss runes and other symbols left by previous civilizations?  Even these questions presuppose that the human species will exist long enough to guard these materials until they are no longer dangerous. Given the timescales involved, even this cannot be taken for granted. — Dr Audra Mitchell

Music by Kraftwerk. Buy the DVD here:

Credit: Magic Hour Films

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt