The disappointing lack of resolution at the Copenhagen talks in Denmark to restrict future global emissions is now behind us.
However, in Finland, they are making bold plans to safely bury nuclear waste materials.
This remarkable country has a population little more than New Zealand's (5.35 million) and is composed of a series of 179,584 islands and 187,888 lakes.
On the island of Olkiluoto, the forest is king. Elk and deer graze near shimmering streams, and people search out blueberries and chanterelle mushrooms.
Beneath the green forests, workers have been digging away hundreds of thousands of tonnes of bedrock to prepare a labyrinth of passages and chambers to bury Finland's spent nuclear fuel.
Twenty-eight per cent of Finland's electricity needs is generated by four nuclear reactors housed in two power plants, and 5500 tonnes of Finnish nuclear waste needs to be safely removed.
As part of the first phase of excavations, a large access tunnel, spiralling down to a depth of 400 metres, is complete. This work has taken five years, and has been part of a decision to "safely" bury nuclear waste material beneath the forests of Finland for the next 100 years.
The second phase of the operation is to research the geological properties of the bedrock for its suitability and stability for nuclear-waste storage. This entails detailed geological analysis and assessment.
Once the suitability of the bedrock has been established, an agency responsible for the construction of the sealed chambers will submit an application for a construction licence for the final disposal facility. Approval and final planning are expected to take until 2015, after which construction will continue for about five years.
The plan is to insert the spent nuclear fuel into copper canisters with cast-iron linings, standing 3m to 5m high and weighing between 16 and 25 tonnes each. If all goes to schedule, the encapsulation and burial will begin in 2020, and the facility will be large enough to accept canisters of spent fuel for 100 years, after which, in 2120, the full tunnel will be backfilled and sealed.
Nations such as Finland using this form of energy have managed to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, but perhaps, now even more importantly, they are looking for progressive and long-term binding decisions to dispose of a toxic waste material safely. How sad that the Copenhagen meeting could not have made similar bold plans regarding the reduction and removal of greenhouse-gas waste emissions, which threaten to have dramatic effects on the Earth and all its people.
I wish our readers a happy and prosperous New Year.
David Shillington is Head of the School of Applied Health Sciences at Universal College of Learning.
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