The Swedish government has given the go-ahead for in-depth studies at three proposed sites for a final repository for the country's spent fuel.
Sweden's environment ministry announced that site investigations could be pursued in the municipalities of Oskarshamn, Tierp and Östhammar, as outlined in proposals presented last year by SKB, the Swedish nuclear fuel and waste management company.
A spokeswoman said it was now up to each of the municipalities concerned to issue "a formal statement" on whether SKB could carry out the investigations in their individual areas.
SKB expects decisions from all three municipalities to be made before February. The company can "move forward" at any single site once local approval has been given, without waiting for decisions from all three municipalities.
The proposed investigation areas represent different types of granite bedrock in Sweden. SKB said detailed geological investigations should take five to six years to complete and it hopes to make a final site proposal by about 2007.