State-owned Finnish metals company Terrafame is now closer to recovering uranium as a by-product at its Sotkamo mine.
The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has told the government that there are no radiation-related risks that would prohibit the granting of a recovery permit.
The diversified metals company applied for a uranium extraction permit in October 2017. Terrafame’s goal is to refine the uranium extracted from Sotkamo into yellowcake, which will then be used as nuclear power plant fuel.
The Sotkamo mine and mill complex currently produces nickel, zinc, cobalt and copper. In order to get approval from STUK, the company had to submit to an inspection with the agency and file several applications for permitting.
“The nuclear and radiation safety risks caused by the production of uranium to the environment and the residents in the area are minor,” states the STUK report. “In practice, minor risks mean that the radiation exposure of the employees at the uranium recovery plant is minor and the production of uranium will not expose members of the public to additional radiation.”
Terrafame already has a relevant chemical permit and an environmental permit, but it will need federal approval and a uranium sales permit from Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It will also need a permit from the European Atomic Energy Community to transport uranium abroad for processing.
Uranium output at Sotkamo will mark the first time U3O8 has been produced domestically in Finland. Although the country does not currently mine uranium, it does consume the energy fuel at four nuclear reactors where 30 percent of the country’s electricity is generated.
There is currently a fifth reactor under construction; once it is operational, the country hopes to eliminate coal use and generate as much as 60 percent of all its electricity from nuclear power.
Concentrations and quality of Finnish uranium are quite low, but Terrafame has said it can recover significant value from its uranium by-product using modern techniques and extraction methods.
The company will now await the final approval from the federal government.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.