Sweden's voluntarism approach to waste validated by regulator

18 November 2015

Forsmark is the best site for Sweden to dispose of used nuclear fuel, said the country's safety regulator, endorsing the site selection process which was based on volunteering municipalities.

Home already to a nuclear power plant and a disposal site for intermediate-level radioactive waste, Forsmark was put forward by local leaders as a candidate for the underground disposal facility in 2002. The selection process included several other candidate sites and Forsmark, which enjoyed 77% local support, was finally chosen in 2009.

On behalf of the power companies that own used reactor fuel, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (Svensk Kärnbränslehantering, SKB) submitted its application to build there in 2011 and this approval process is on-going.

Today Ansi Gerhardsson of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, SSM) said, "Our preliminary assessment is that the site selection process, based on its preconditions vis-à-vis volunteering municipalities, has culminated in the most suitable site for a repository of the type planned by SKB."

SSM's preliminary view of Forsmark as a geographic location is favourable, in particular due to the low rate of fracturing in its granite bedrock and the slow movement of groundwater. It looked at SKB's analysis of conditions after the underground store is filled and sealed and what would happen if there was a radiological release and said it was "cautiously optimistic".

However, Gerhardsson said, "It is still too early to draw any conclusions on what our overall assessment will be. SSM still has critical matters of substance to examine, for example relating to the long-term integrity of disposal canisters." The authority expects to give its 'opinion' on the facility as a whole in the first quarter of next year and deliver a final decision to government in 2017. SKB hopes to start construction in the early 2020s.

The repository will have capacity to store 12,000 tonnes of used nuclear fuel in 6000 copper-cast iron canisters, which would be surrounded by bentonite clay to absorb any future leakage. At a depth of 500 metres depth in 1.9 billion year-old granite it will feature around 60 kilometres of disposal tunnels.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News