SKB receives environmental permit for SFR expansion

23 December 2022

Sweden's Land and Environment Court has granted radioactive waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) an environmental permit to extend the SFR final repository for low and intermediate-level waste at Forsmark.

The blue area shows where SKB plans to extend the existing SFR repository (Image: SKB)

The SFR repository is situated 60 metres below the bottom of the Baltic Sea and began operations in 1988. The facility comprises four 160-metre long rock vaults and a chamber in the bedrock with a 50-metre high concrete silo for the most radioactive waste. Two parallel kilometre-long access tunnels link the facility to the surface. The facility currently has a total final disposal capacity of about 63,000 cubic metres of waste.

SKB applied in December 2014 to triple the size of the repository, to about 180,000 cubic metres. The application was submitted to the government by the Land and Environment Court and the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) in November 2019. In April 2021, the municipality of Östhammar, where the SFR is located, also approved the extension. Following a government decision in December 2021 to approve the application, the matter was referred back to SSM and the Court.

SKB has now received an environmental permit from the Land and Environment Court for the expansion.

"The judgment regulates, among other things, noise, transport and other impacts on the environment," SKB said. "At the same time, SKB also received permission to use and desalinate seawater that is needed during construction. This is to save on fresh water, which is in short supply in the region. The court also decided on enforcement for preliminary work, which means that SKB can start work above ground in the near future."

The company noted that the conditions for the SFR expansion and the seawater withdrawal were negotiated in court over three days earlier this year.

The plan is that the repository, when extended, will have six new rock vaults, 240-275 metres long. The intention is to construct the extension at a depth of 120-140 metres, level with the lowest part of the current SFR repository.

The expansion is expected to take six years to complete. In the initial stage, earthworks, water treatment plant and other infrastructure will be put in place. In the second stage, tunnelling work in the rock underground will be carried out.

SKB said it plans to submit in early-2023 a preliminary safety report to SSM, which is the next step in the permit review according to the Nuclear Technology Act.

"Now SKB has received important prerequisites and conditions for expanding the SFR and thus final storage of radioactive demolition waste from the nuclear power plants," said SKB Communications Manager Anna Porelius. "Demolition of several reactors is underway in Sweden and it is important that the waste has a final destination in Forsmark."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News