SKB receives permit to expand Clab capacity

23 June 2022

Sweden's Land and Environment Court has granted radioactive waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) an environmental permit to increase the amount of used nuclear fuel in the Clab interim storage facility at Oskarshamn from 8000 tonnes to 11,000 tonnes.

The underground Clab used fuel interim storage facility (Image: Curt-Robert Lindqvist / SKB)

Used fuel from Swedish nuclear power plants will be stored at Clab until the final disposal repository begins operating. During interim storage, the fuel is kept in deep storage pools about 30 metres below ground in the rock. Covering the fuel with 8 metres of water shields against radiation and cools the fuel down. In time the radioactivity lessens and the fuel is therefore easier to manage when disposed of in the repository SKB plans to construct at Forsmark.

SKB submitted applications to build 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 - is referred to in SKB's application as Clink. The application concerns the disposal of 6000 capsules with a total of 12,000 tonnes of radioactive waste at a depth of about 500 metres. SKB also applied in early-2015 to extend the storage capacity of the Clab facility from the current 8000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes as Clab will be full before the used fuel repository at Forsmark is commissioned.

SKB's application to extend the storage capacity of Clab - which began operating in 1985 - was approved by the government on 26 August last year while it continued to consider the application for the fuel encapsulation plant and final repository. The decision came despite industry warnings that separating the applications would create future disruptions to electricity supply due to a lack of interim used fuel storage capacity. In January this year, Sweden's Minister of Climate and Environment Annika Strandhäll announced construction of the encapsulation plant and final repository can proceed.

"The environmental permit is an important step on the way for us to be able to receive more spent nuclear fuel in Clab," said SKB CEO Johan Dasht. "Now the parallel review continues according to the Nuclear Activities Act, for which the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority is responsible."

SKB noted the environmental permit may be used, even if it should be appealed to a higher court. The current permit limit of 8000 tonnes will be reached in December 2023, it said. However, in order to be able to exceed this, SKB is required to submit renewed safety reports for the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority's approval. These shall include reinforcements that further increase the radiation safety of the plant.

"Now both the government and the court have decided to give SKB permission for increased intermediate storage," Dasht said. "These are important milestones, but there is still significant work to be done before we can secure the continued intermediate storage."

"The fact that the permit for interim storage in Clab is being tested separately is a consequence of the government breaking this out of SKB's overall final repository application last summer," the company said. "SKB has since carried out extensive work to make the continued permit examination possible."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News