Forsmark for Swedish nuclear waste

03 June 2009

Sweden's permanent disposal site for used nuclear fuel will be at Forsmark, the company responsible for building it announced today.


Copper canister 
Canisters like the ones SKB will use to
isolate the used nuclear fuel
The decision was announced by SKB President, Claes Thegerström today after a board meeting yesterday. Forsmark, in the municipality of Östhammar, was selected in preference to Laxemar in the Oskarshamn municipality after a process of investigation and engagement that has lasted since 2002.


Site works towards the underground facility could begin in 2013, with full construction starting in 2015 and operation in 2023. This single facility, using only 15 hectares above ground, would hold all of the high-level radioactive waste from the nuclear power reactors that provide about 45% of Sweden's electricity. SKB will apply to nuclear safety regulators for premission to build in around one year's time.


The repository is designed to isolate the wastes for the 100,000 years it will take until their levels of radiation return to the original low levels of natural uranium. Used nuclear fuel assemblies are to be packed in cast iron baskets within thick copper canisters and packed in clay almost 500 metres below gound in a continguous section of igneous rock. At that level, groundwater movement is so slow that the wastes could never affect life at the surface. The method, known as KBS-3, was selected in 1983.


The competition to host the site was hard fought, with both communities taking keen interest - both municipalities already have nuclear facilities. Forsmark already hosts a nuclear power plant and the final repository for short-lived radioactive waste, but its selection for this facility comes as something of a surprise. The used fuel for disposition at the CLAB interim store is in the Oskarshamn municipality near Laxemar, as will be the encapsulation plant. Also in that region is the Äspö hard rock laboratory where much of the practical work to demonstrate the disposal method has taken place.


Thegerstrom said that the rock bodies beneath Forsmark were drier and with fewer cracks than at Laxemar and this would improve long-term safety. In addition, a respository at Forsmark could be designed to take up less space than one at Laxemar, meaning an easier construction job in part because of the smaller amount of rock to handle and tunnel space to backfill. At the peak of construction, 30 to 40 trucks per day will carry excavated rock from  the site.


In addition to the benefits that would come with such a long-lasting engineering project, Forsmark's Östhammar municipality will also receive about 25% of a SEK2 billion ($240 million) financial package. The losing region, Oskarshamn, will take the rest of the package.