Swedish municipality gives approval for fuel repository

14 October 2020

In what Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) describes as a "historic decision", the municipal council of Östhammar yesterday voted in favour of its planned repository for used nuclear fuel at Forsmark. The final decision to authorise the project will now be made by the Swedish government.

A rendering of how the underground repository could appear (Image: SKB)

SKB, Sweden's radioactive waste management company, submitted applications to build the country's first nuclear fuel repository and the 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 submitted an application to extend the storage capacity of the Clab facility from the current 8000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes.

The applications have been reviewed by the SSM and the Land and Environment Court. The SSM has considered issues of nuclear safety and radiation at the facilities as laid down in the country's Nuclear Activities Act. The review undertaken by the Land and Environment Court was based on the Environment Code. Both SSM and the Land and Environment Court submitted their respective positive opinions to the government on SKB's applications in January 2018.

Under the Swedish Environmental Code, before the government makes a final decision, it must consult with the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar, which have the power to veto the application. In June 2018, the municipal council in Oskarshamn voted in favour of SKB's plan to build the fuel encapsulation plant in the municipality. The municipal council of Östhammar has now approved the planned repository at Forsmark.

"It is very gratifying indeed that Östhammar municipality has made this historic decision," said SKB CEO Johan Dasht. "This is absolutely crucial for making it possible for Sweden to take final responsibility for the radioactive waste produced by our generation." He added, "After 40 years of research and development, the matter of final disposal is now fully investigated and it is up to the government to take a decision. We look forward to receiving an answer as soon as possible."

The final decision to authorise the project will now be made by the government, which will base its decision on the assessments of both the SSM and the Land and Environment Court. If the government makes a favourable decision, the matter will be returned to SSM and Land and Environment Court, who will stipulate conditions for the facilities and issue a licence under the Swedish Environmental Code.

"The government's decision will be the starting point for one of Sweden's largest and most important environmental protection projects and triggers investments of around SEK19 billion (USD2.2 billion), which will create about 1500 employment opportunities."

Under its current timetable, SKB plans to start construction of the used fuel repository and the encapsulation plant in the mid-2020s and they will take about ten years to complete.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News