Nuclear law changes proposed in Sweden

19 February 2010

The financial liability of Swedish nuclear power reactor owners in the event of an accident would quadruple under a bill introduced by the country's government. The bill would also allow the construction of new reactors in the country.


Currently, the country's Nuclear Liability Act requires nuclear power plant owners to cover costs of up to SKr3 billion ($412 million) per incident, while the state will cover up to a further SKr3 billion. However, following the 2009 climate and energy policy agreement, the government is proposing that the amount that plant owners are liable for should be increased to SKr12 billion ($1.65 billion). The government would still contribute up to SKr3, bringing the total liability to SKr15 billion ($2.1 billion). This sum far exceeds the SKr7 billion ($960 million) required under the Paris Convention, which Sweden has ratified. All international arrangements involve strict liability of the operator, without any need to prove fault.


The government says that under the new legislation, reactor owners should ensure they can afford to pay SKr12 billion in the event of an accident, either by taking out insurance or some other form of guarantee. This guarantee is to be reviewed by the National Debt Office on behalf of the government. The government proposal also includes the possibility for unlimited liability, meaning that all of a company's assets could be used to cover damages.


The draft bill will be reviewed by the Council on Legislation then, if approved, will be sent to parliament for consideration. The government said that, if passed, the liability legislation will enter into force no earlier than January 2011.


"Reactor owners must take full responsibility for security and insurance for nuclear power plants," said environment minister Andreas Carlgren. He added, "To date, reactor owners have low requirements to ensure compensation for an accident, but through the proposed legislation we will now tighten the requirements."


Carlgren said that the change in legislation to increase the liability was aimed at eliminating the risks of a nuclear accident in Sweden as far as possible.


New build


In addition, the bill also proposes an amendment to Swedish legislation banning the construction of new nuclear power reactors. The amendments to be made in Sweden's Environmental Code and the Act on Nuclear Activities would repeal the so-called Settlement Act, thereby allowing new reactors to be constructed.


However, under the proposal, new reactors could only be built at existing plant sites and only to replace currently operating units. The total number of new reactors would be limited to ten. Changes to legislation would also require regular, comprehensive assessments of plant safety.


If the bill is approved by parliament, the legislation concerning nuclear new build will come into force on 1 August 2010, when the Settlement Act will expire.


Sweden's decision to ban new nuclear build and ultimately phase out nuclear power was reached following a 1980 referendum which presented three phase-out options and none for continuing operation. Originally the plans had been for all nuclear units to close by 2010, but although two reactors at the Barseback nuclear power station were closed in 1999 and 2005, the country's other operating units have since been reprieved. Since the referendum, nuclear operators have added the equivalent of an entire new reactor in output through capacity uprates.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News