The proposed repository at Forsmark in Sweden (Credit: SKB)Sweden's radioactive waste management company, Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) said the Östhammar Municipal Council has voted in favour of building a used fuel repository in Forsmark.

“It is a historic decision. Now it is up to the Government to make the final decision in the matter of the final repository,” said SKB. “This is absolutely crucial for making it possible for Sweden to take final responsibility for the radioactive waste produced by our generation, noted SKB CEO Johan Dasht.

The final repository for radioactive waste will be one of the largest infrastructure projects carried out in Sweden. It will also be one of the country’s largest environmental protection projects. In terms of investments, it involves around SEK19 billion ($2.2 billion), and will create about 1500 employment opportunities.

SKB selected Forsmark as the site for the final repository in 2009, and in 2011, the licence applications were submitted to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, and the Land and Environment Court, MMD, for review. The applications were reviewed by independent experts at the regulatory authorities and by several reviewing bodies. An international expert group also commented on the long-term safety, at the request of the State.

After several referral rounds, SSM recommended approval of SKB’s application in January 2017 and the following autumn, a main hearing was held in the matter under the Environmental Code. MMD was positive in several important respects, for example regarding the issues relating to the site Forsmark, the rock, the buffer, the environmental impact statement and the facilities in Oskarshamn, but it requested supplementary information on the copper canisters. SKB submitted this information to the Government in April 2019.

“With this decision from Östhammar Municipality and Oskarshamn Municipality’s previous decision to agree to the establishment of the encapsulation plant, the basis for a Government decision on the matter is now in place,” SKB said.

When the Government has made its decision, the matter will be returned to SSM and MMD and they will stipulate conditions for the facilities. SKB plans to start the construction in the mid 2020s and estimates that it will take around 10 years to complete.

SKB noted that the fact that a licence has been granted does not mean that the process is concluded. “When it comes to nuclear facilities, there are a large number of checkpoints along the way.” Additional licences will be required from SSM to begin construction, for trial operation, for regular operation and finally for the decommissioning and closure of the facilities.

The application for the integrated facility – the encapsulation plant and the Clab interim storage facility –  is for the disposal of 6000 capsules with a total of 12,000 tonnes of radioactive waste at a depth of about 500 metres. SKB also submitted an application to extend the storage capacity of the Clab facility from the current 8000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes.

Photo: The proposed repository at Forsmark in Sweden (Credit: SKB)