Sweden's new centre-right coalition government which formally took office on 18 October with Moderate party leader Ulf Kristersson as Prime Minister, has adopted a programme which calls for the expansion of nuclear power. Four parties, comprising the Christian Democrats, the Liberals, the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats announced a written agreement on policies – the Tidöavtalet – on 14 October. The agreement was named after the negotiations that took place during the week at Tidö castle outside Västerås. The four parties have a narrow parliamentary majority. However, the far-right Sweden Democrats are not part of the coalition, although the government will need its support to achieve a parliamentary majority for its policies.
Ulf Kristersson said that the negotiations that resulted in the Tidöavtalet covered seven collaborative projects and one budget collaboration. The seven collaborative projects deal with crime, migration and integration, energy policy and healthcare, schools and strengthening freedoms and rights.
The section on climate and energy included the following:
- The removal of prohibitions in the Environmental Code to allow new reactors at new sites and to permit more than ten reactors in operation at the same time. "Vattenfall should immediately start planning new nuclear power at Ringhals and other suitable locations." Necessary regulations should be developed to create the conditions for the construction and operation of small modular reactors (SMR) in Sweden. In addition, the permitting process for NPPs must be shortened. A single authority will be responsible for issuing permits. A special rule in the Environmental Code will also be introduced to expedite permits for new NPPs. The Radiation Safety Authority will look into how the permit process can be shortened.
- Energy policy will be changed from 100% "renewable" to 100% fossil-free.
- The conditions for investments in nuclear power must be strengthened through, among other things, government credit guarantees of SEK400 billion ($35.6bn) with more generous terms than the present system. "The boundaries in today's system of green credit guarantees need to be reviewed so that the credit guarantees can also be used for new construction of nuclear power".
- New rules will be introduced that prevent politics from arbitrarily shutting down NPPs. "Nuclear power must be guaranteed the right to operate and produce electricity as long as the facilities are in good condition and operated safely. If the state forces a closure, owners must be entitled to compensation".
- An investigation will be launched immediately into restarting units 1&2 of the Ringhals NPP.
- The ban on restarting closed reactors will be reversed.
Sweden's six nuclear power reactors provide about 40% of its electricity. In 1980, the government decided to phase out nuclear power, but parliament repealed this policy in 2010. The 1997 energy policy allowed 10 reactors to operate longer than envisaged in the phase-out policy, but nevertheless resulted in the premature closure of the two-unit Barsebäck NPP. In 2015, decisions were also made to close four older reactors by 2020 and Ringhals 1&2 were closed at the end of 2020 and 2019, several years earlier than planned in face of of punitive taxes. In June this year, Vattenfall announced it was initiating a pilot study to assess the possibility of building at least two SMRs adjacent to the Ringhals plant. The study is expected to be completed by 2024.
On 19 October, power Fortum welcomed the investments in nuclear power detailed in the Tidö Agreement. The credit guarantees reduce the political risk from an investment perspective, said communications manager Per-Oscar Hedman. “All investments in energy and energy systems are generally long-term. Everything that can reduce the risk of sudden changes therefore becomes important.”
Fortum recently announced plans for a feasibility study on SMRs. Hedman noted that it is difficult to say when the first SMRs may appear “because we have permit processes that are long and unpredictable…but I would say maybe ten years.”.
Prime Minister Kristersson told TT that he has no immediate plans to initiate energy deliberations. “It is not something that I have ruled out in any way. But I'm not going to have energy deliberations that continue to fail to solve the problems. Now the government has a clear line: keep nuclear power and build new. If there are more parties that want to participate and discuss how, that would be very good,” he noted.
Image: The Ringhals plant (courtesy of Vattenfall)