Strong support for Swedish fuel repository

19 May 2008

Residents of the two municipalities that are candidates to host Sweden's spent nuclear fuel repository have expressed strong support for the project, while the majority of residents of neighbouring municipalities are also in favour.


83% of respondents in Oskarhamn and 77% of those in Osthammar were supportive of their municipality being chosen as the location for the repository, both up on 2006 figures of 79% for Oskarshamn residents and 73% for Osthammar. According to Claes Thegerström, CEO of Swedish spent fuel management company Svensk Karnbranslehantering AB (SKB), "The whole process of finding a place where we can build the repository is based on voluntary action by the municipality, and hence local opinion is obviously important ... It is therefore very gratifying that we have such a strong support locally."


An annual opinion poll of the residents of Oskarshamn and Osthammar has been carried out on behalf of SKB since 2003. This year's poll, carried out by international market research company Synovate over the period 9-21 April, was extended to the neighbouring municipalities of Uppsala, Digos, Tierps, Monsteras, Borgholm and Vastervik. While the majority of residents of those areas were in favour of a final repository being sited in their neighbouring municipalities, support was found to decrease with distance from the proposed site, with those living closer to the site most strongly in favour.


Regulator wants more


Although the residents are happy with the idea of a final repository, the regulator has says SKB needs to provide more information before it submits an application to build a repository. The Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) has ruled that the information in SKB's 2007 waste management plan report would not provide a sufficient basis for a permit application. SKB submits the report, which covers its research and development programme, every three years and is not due to present another full report before the application for the repository is expected to be submitted, so SSI has asked for SKB prepare additional information.


According to SSI inspector Anders Wiebert, some fundamental questions about methods and some site-specific questions need to be resolved. The agency also said that SKB's programme for low- and intermediate-level waste and for the demolition of the country's nuclear power reactors does not, as it stands, meet the requirements of nuclear law and has directed the government to demand SKB supplies more information.


Forsmark repository to resume operations


Meanwhile, the SSI has granted regulatory approval for the resumption of deposition of waste at the country's final repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at Forsmark, also in the municipality of Osthammar. Deposition of waste was suspended on 21 June 2007 after the SSI found that SKB had failed to produce sufficient evidence that operations met radiation protection standards. SKB says it has been working to answer SSI's questions and that the decision confirms that it is the longer-term safety of the operation, rather than day-to-day operations, that has required further analysis. Although all parts of the repository are cleared for operation, the deposition of wastes containing high concentrations of carbon-14 is still suspended until a safety assessment is completed and gains SSI approval, SKB says.