January 27, 2022
Construction of the final repository for spent nuclear fuel at Forsmark and the associated fuel encapsulation plant at Oskarshamn can continue, Swedish Climate and Environment Minister Annika Strandhäll has announced.
A rendering of how the underground repository might appear (Image: SKB)
The radioactive waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) submitted applications for the construction of Sweden’s first nuclear fuel repository and an encapsulation plant to the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) in March 2011. The integrated facility – the encapsulation plant and the Clab interim storage facility at Oskarshamn – is referred to as Clink in SKB’s application.
The request concerns the storage of 6,000 capsules with a total of 12,000 tons of radioactive waste at a depth of approximately 500 meters. SKB has also requested to expand the storage capacity of the Clab facility from the current 8,000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes.
The applications were reviewed by the SSM and the Land and Environmental Tribunal. The SSM reviewed nuclear and radiation safety issues at the facilities in accordance with the country’s Nuclear Activities Act. The review undertaken by the Land and Environment Court was based on the Environmental Code. SSM and the Land and Environmental Court submitted their respective positive opinions to the government on SKB’s claims in January 2018.
Under Sweden’s environmental code, before the government makes a final decision, it must consult with the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar, which have the power to veto the request. In June 2018, Oskarshamn City Council voted in favor of SKB’s plan to build the fuel encapsulation plant in the municipality. Östhammar City Council approved in October 2020 the planned depot in Forsmark.
The government has just announced that it has assessed that the applications meet the requirements of the Environmental Code and the Nuclear Activities Act and therefore authorizes the construction of the encapsulation plant and the final storage. “The government supports the expert assessment of the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority that the technology for final storage is the best possible and that the method with the three barrier functions is safe and meets the requirements of the legislation, even in a very long-term perspective”, It said.
Further steps in the licensing process
The government will now refer the case under the environmental code to the Land and Environmental Court of the Nacka District Court, which will issue a permit and prescribe more detailed conditions for the operation of the facilities.
With the government’s decision, SKB received a license in accordance with the Nuclear Activities Act. The decision comes with the condition that SSM conducts a continuous step-by-step evaluation, in which future research and technology development will be part of the ongoing process.
“We look forward to taking the next step in the process,” said Peter Selting, head of SKB’s Safety, Quality and Environment department. “Now many details will be discussed and approved in the coming years, both in court and during the step-by-step review by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority.”
SKB’s request to expand Clab’s storage capacity was approved by the government on December 22.
SKB’s construction projects will involve significant investments, particularly in the municipalities and regions concerned. In total, SKB will invest around 19 billion SEK (2 billion USD), mainly in the construction, rock works and installations sector. It is estimated that it will take about ten years to build the spent fuel repository.
“Now we will be ready to start building when all the permits are in place,” said Johan Hedlund, head of SKB’s projects department. “This will be another intense and fun period in the history of SKB. Now is when we will complete our mission to take over Sweden’s nuclear waste.”
“It is irresponsible to leave nuclear waste in pools of water year after year without a decision,” Strandhäll said. “We must not leave the responsibility to our children and grandchildren. Our generation must take responsibility for our waste. Therefore, the government allows the next stage of the review process. Everyone can rest assured that the process continues through the land and environmental court and the step-by-step review under the responsibility of the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority.”
She added: “We and Finland are the first in the world to take responsibility for nuclear waste. It will be a safe repository that will ensure the safety of both the environment and people. In addition, it provides conditions term for Sweden’s electricity supply and Swedish jobs.”
Research and writing by World Nuclear News