After receiving differing assessments on Sweden’s planned used fuel repository from the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) and the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm, Environment and Energy Minister Karolina Skog told Reuters on 24 January that no decision would be made this year.
SSM said nuclear fuel and waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB's (SKB's) application to build a repository for used nuclear fuel and an encapsulation plant should be allowed to proceed with the plan, which may take ten years to complete.
However, the Land and Environment Court wants additional documentation on the copper capsules in which the fuel will be stored within the repository. While SSM considered issues of nuclear safety and radiation at the facilities in line with the Nuclear Activities Act, the review by the Land and Environment Court was based on the Environment Code. The final decision to authorise the project will be made by the government after it consults with the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammars, which have the power to veto the application.
SKB applied to SSM to build Sweden’s first nuclear fuel repository and the encapsulation plant in March 2011. The integrated facility (clink) includes the encapsulation plant and the Clab interim storage facility. The application relates to the disposal of 6,000 capsules with a total of 12,000 tonnes of radioactive waste at a depth of about 500 metres. SKB also applied to extend the capacity of Clab from 8,000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes.
SSM head of radiation safety Ansi Gerhardsson said: "The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority assess that SKB has the potential to ensure the safe management and final disposal of spent nuclear fuel so that human health and the environment are protected against the harmful effects of radiation."
The Land and Environment Court said: "SKB's assessment is solid, but there is still uncertainty about the ability of the capsule to contain the nuclear waste in the long term. The uncertainties relate to the extent to which the capsules can be damaged by corrosion and by processes that affect the mechanical strength of the capsule. The overall assessment shows that the uncertainty about the capability of the capsule is significant and that all uncertainties have not been taken into account in SKB's safety analysis."
The court concluded that the repository “may be permitted under the Environment Code only if SKB reports additional information that clarifies that the repository is safe even with regard to the capability of the capsules." However, the activities of the encapsulation plant and Clab may be permitted under the Environment Code.
SKB CEO Eva Halldén said the company would produce additional documentation, which it was confident would allay the safety concerns of the environmental court. "When we deliver the information requested, we are convinced that the government will be able to approve the final repository also according to the Environment Code," she said. Assuming approval is finally granted, SKB plans to start construction of the repository and encapsulation plant early in the 2020s. Sweden currently stores its used nuclear fuel in an interim facility near the Oskarshamn.