By Dane Ambler

New Zealand technology company ARANZ Geo is helping with the global challenge of safely disposing of nuclear waste.

ARANZ Geo's Leapfrog 3D geological modelling software has been used by Finnish spent nuclear fuel disposal company Posiva to understand and manage geological risk for the construction of a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel.

The software enables geologists to model geology at the nuclear repository site by using "CAT scan-like" interactive 3D modelling, said chief executive Shaun Maloney.

Shaun Maloney, chief executive of Christchurch company ARANZ Geo.
Shaun Maloney, chief executive of Christchurch company ARANZ Geo.

"Our technology allows them to identify natural hazards. You need a deep understanding of the geology using IT and algorithms. We are using medical-grade 3D modelling which is remarkably detailed," Maloney said.

"It's one of the biggest challenges of our time. The safe disposal of radioactive waste is so important to solving a global problem. Our technology can readily tackle the magnitude and complexity of geological modelling to identify and manage geology that is suitable for long-term storage."

The complex mapping requires accurate geological understanding based on the latest information, used in a very transparent way and shared across all project stakeholders, said Posiva's research manager, structural geologist Jussi Mattila.

"Leapfrog allows our geology team to handle numerous inputs of disparate data types, and comprehend the impact in dynamic 3D models to gain an accurate picture of the geology."

Finland is leading the way with their project for a high-level geological repository. There are now 449 nuclear power plants in more than 30 countries, which generate more than 10 per cent of the world's electricity production.

ARANZ Geo is contributing globally to a wide variety of other mining, civil, environmental and energy industry projects, including geothermal energy, hydro dams, transport tunnels, mining, water quality and resource management projects.

From a small Christchurch-based research company that employed 20 people in 2010, ARANZ's revenue was increasing by 25 per cent every year, Maloney said.

"We're taking on dozens of challenging projects in over 30 countries from our global headquarters in New Zealand, and 13 other offices around the world; that's what gets our 184 people out of bed every morning."