Vattenfall applies for a new plan for Ringhals NPP expansion

9 November 2023

Power utility Vattenfall has applied to Varberg municipality for a detailed plan to allow construction of new reactors on the Värö Peninsula in Sweden west of the existing Ringhals NPP. The announcement came as the government launches a review of the permitting process. Vattenfall already owns most of the one square kilometre area west of the Ringhals plant.

Last year, Vattenfall undertook a pilot study to assess the conditions for proceeding with plans to build at least two small modular reactors (SMRs) next to Ringhals for operation in the early 2030s. As part of the plans, Vattenfall has initiated a process to buy properties in the relevant area.

“In order to build new reactors on the Värö peninsula, a new detailed plan needs to be drawn up,” explained Desirée Comstedt, project and development manager for nuclear power at Vattenfall. The company has, therefore applied for a planning notice from Varberg Municipality to enable preparation of a detailed plan.

“The future nuclear power plant is intended to be located in or adjacent to the National Interest Ringhals, an area designated for electricity generation and cogeneration. We have conducted a location study that shows that this area is most suitable for meeting the growing need for planned electricity in Sweden as quickly as possible,” Comstedt said.

Since spring, work has been underway for an environmental impact assessment, which includes field studies and soil studies in the area west of Ringhals. A process of inquiries to reactor suppliers is ongoing this summer.

“The preliminary study on the conditions for building new nuclear power on the Värö Peninsula is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and is part of our decision basis for future permit applications with the Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environmental Court for construction of new nuclear reactors, Comstedt noted.

The application for a planning notice says the operating area of the NPP will accommodate reactors with associated buildings. In addition, an area of operation is required with space for workshops, storage rooms, office space, dining room, sewage treatment plant, emergency services and more, as well as an outer area for parking, staff housing, hotels and more. Vattenfall will investigate how much of the existing infrastructure at Ringhals NPP will be able to be used with a new plant.

A bill to amend Sweden's legislation on nuclear power was introduced to parliament by the government in early October. It aims to amend the current law limiting the number of reactors in operation to ten, and to allow reactors to be built on new sites, rather than just existing ones. The government has commissioned an investigator to analyse how the permitting processes for nuclear power can be made clearer, shorter and whether a fast track for nuclear power in the environmental permit process should be introduced.

It is also part of the task of the investigator to propose "fair and appropriate" fees for testing new reactors and to review how the existing nuclear waste system can be developed, the government said. It also includes reviewing the regulation of emergency zones.

The assignments on permit review and fees should be completed by 30 December 2024, the assignment on nuclear waste and used nuclear fuel by 29 August 2025, and the assignment on preparedness by 27 February 2026.

Image: Ringhals nuclear power plant in Varberg, southwestern Sweden (courtesy of Vattenfall)

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