You are here


New Swedish government aims for sustainability, nuclear energy in question

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charly Hultén, WISE Sweden

On September 14, Swedish voters threw out a Right-centrist coalition that had been in power for eight years. The Social Democrats (31.0%) find themselves in a weak coalition with the Greens (6.9%), having chosen to exclude the Left (5.7%) from the government. Green Party leader Åsa Romson is Minister for Climate and the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister.

With less than 40% of the votes in Parliament, the new government faces the prospect of having to negotiate ad hoc majorities from issue to issue. The first hurdle, of course, was reaching agreement within the coalition. Non-socialist commentators touted energy policy as 'Mission Impossible' in this regard, even before the election. But to their – and perhaps even many Social Democrats' – surprise, on October 1 the parties announced that they had reached an agreement.

Up to then, the Greens were very clear on nuclear energy, urging a prompt phase-out – taking as many reactors off-line as possible, as soon as possible. The Social Democrats, however, have been of two minds regarding nuclear. For decades. Especially the party leader, now Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who formerly headed up Sweden's most powerful union, IF Metall, has been hesitant about any move that might endanger investment in Swedish industry or Swedish jobs. Which, to his mind, a phase-out would do.

Meanwhile, the Social Democratic party congress has taken a stand for sustainability in the energy sector, favoring investment in renewable energy sources and aiming for a phase-out of nuclear when renewables and energy saving measures fill the gap nuclear would leave behind.

The new Social-Democratic Minister for Industry, Mikael Damberg, will head a red-green panel of ministers that will oversee the management of Vattenfall. Damberg has long spoken for the 'sustainability' wing of the party, but in recent weeks he has also characterised Vattenfall's demands on the German government as "reasonable".

The compromise reached between the two parties rests on the "as soon as possible" that unites all three groups, but does not specify either the number of reactors that can be taken off-line or when. Nor does it forbid future 'new build'. What it does contain is this:

  • Nuclear energy shall "assume a greater share of its costs to society".
  • Reactor safety shall be improved – e.g., cooling mechanisms that are independent of the reactor's status – lessons from Fukushima that are being acted out throughout the EU.
  • The surcharge on electricity use, levied to cover the costs of waste management and storage, will be increased (albeit not enough to actually cover costs).
  • State-owned Vattenfall has been instructed to suspend immediately all planning for new nuclear reactors − reputed to have cost well over 100 million SEK (US$13.7m; €10.8m) to date. Instead, the company shall focus on developing renewable energy sources.
  • Alongside energy savings, offshore wind and solar power will be stimulated.

There is no parliamentary majority for phasing out nuclear energy. The new government is using its prerogative as owner of Vattenfall to issue a directive to the company. Vattenfall was the only actor in Sweden that actually had plans for 'new build'. Does this mean The End for nuclear power?

It is the first point above that is open to widely ranging interpretations. Put another way, it means an end to at least some of the de facto subsidies that nuclear power enjoys. But how far-reaching is the goal? Does it mean, for example, that reactor operators will have to take out liability insurance, like any other risky business? At present they do not.

The compromise has been applauded for its political sophistication. Other than the directive to Vattenfall, there is no fiat, no explicit prohibition of either R&D or investment in nuclear reactors. The 'how many' and 'when' is left to two extraparliamentary insitutions: the market, on the one hand, and a new Energy Commission, to be composed of major energy users, providers, authorities and politicians, that will be asked to discuss Sweden's path toward sustainability in the energy sector after 2020.

The principal motive for convening the Energy Commission is the PM's desire to assure the long-term stability of the new energy policy. Uncertainty has been perceived to be the Number One threat to the health of the economy, and a major deterrent to investments in energy saving technologies and a shift to renewable sources.

The glut

The truth is that Swedish nuclear energy is no longer the 'cash cow' that it once was. Sweden produces more electricity that it can use, and the export market is not what it used to be. The glut has depressed prices. The expected expansion of renewables, in combination with energy saving technologies, has dampened enthusiasm for investment in nuclear energy. Just when an ageing reactor park requires massive investment.

Some weeks before the election, Mikael Odenberg, CEO for Svenska Kraftnät (the state-owned power distribution utility), published his view, that there is currently no rational basis for investing in new nuclear capacity. Then, only days before the election, Oskarshamns Kraftgrupp (OKG) reported an operating loss of 2.5 billion krona (US$343m; €271m) for their two oldest reactors over the past two years. (Two additional reactors at Ringhals are equally small and old, but their owner, Vattenfall, has not publicly discussed their profitability.)

As for the proposed Energy Commission, the Prime Minister has stated the government's "position at entry" into the discussions: "Nuclear power will be replaced by renewable energy sources and energy savings." The immediate reaction from the most pro-nuclear parties and organisations has been one of shock. Vattenfall's new CEO among them. Energy-intensive industry and IF Metall are up in arms − but will no doubt take part in the discussions once their shock subsides. The Liberal Party leader complains that the outcome of the talks has already been decided and seems disinclined to take part. But the smaller former coalition parties are still in 'campaign mode'. Hopefully, they will get back down to the business of Parliament soon.

So, the situation at present is not entirely clear. The new government has signalled a change of course in the energy sector. Sustainability is the goal. But how long it will take to get the ship on course remains to be seen. The composition of the Energy Commission and its members' willingness to think outside their accustomed boxes will be decisive.

Energy Commission

In connection with the publication of a comprehensive progress report on the attainment of Sweden's sustainability goals, Erik Brandsma, Director-General of the Swedish Energy Agency, urges broad participation in the planned Energy Commission. In Dagens Industri on October 2, Brandsma wrote:

"As for the attainment of our goals, here is where we will stand in 2020:

  • The goal of 50% renewable energy: We'll be at 55%.
  • The goal of 10% renewable energy in the transport sector: It will actually be 26%, thanks to the use of bio-fuel additives.
  • The goal of 20% lower energy intensity (energy efficiency measures) since 2008: 19%, but the figure is sensitive to GNP growth and the possible shutdown of a nuclear power reactor before 2020.
  • The goal of 40% less CO2-emissions (since 1990) – we'll reach this goal, too, with the help of emissions reductions of 40 million tons outside Sweden's borders. ...

"Energy is decisive for our competitive strength and quality of life. The challenges will come after 2020. But to ensure that we can meet these challenges we need, now, to engage in a constructuve dialogue on energy systems of the future. We need to move on from a for-or-against debate over individual energy sources [a reference to the bitter legacy of Sweden's referendum on nuclear energy in 1980] and instead consider the whole.

"'The whole' implies a program of action that tackles energy efficiency, energy production, storage and distribution (the grid). And all this in an international context. Different groups having an interest in energy – industry, interest groups and politicians – have a lot of ideas about "what others should do", and they voice these ideas in seminars, studies and articles in the media. Now it is time for a constructive dialogue, in which all the participants shoulder a responsibility.

"A new Energy Commission may be a good vehicle for such a discussion. We have the data, but facts and documentation mean nothing unless they are used in constructive dialogue. We all have a common goal: a sustainable energy system for Sweden. This means competitive strength, security and minimal impacts on human beings, the environment and the climate."

Swedish Radiation Safety Authority: Second-rate safety good enough for old reactors

After the multiple meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011, nuclear safety authorities throughout Europe have reviewed nuclear power plants' ability to withstand "extreme external conditions". In Sweden, the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has focused particularly on the need to have independent core cooling systems, i.e., systems that can supply cooling water to the core when existing cooling systems fail and the electricity supply has been cut off. The systems shall have a capacity to operate at least 72 hours and be designed to operate under highly improbable, up to one-in-a-million, conditions. So far, so good.

A memorandum circulated to operators on October 9 requires fully functional independent systems to have been installed in every reactor by 2017. But the memorandum also notes that, in the interval to 2020, SSM will accept so-called "intermediate solutions" which, they admit, may not provide the same level of safety as mandated. They mention mobile on-site backup systemsequipment that can be moved between reactors as needed – as one such solution. (Advantage: they are cheaper. The main drawbacks are three: the time it takes to get them on-site and set up, whether they can be moved under emergency conditions; and they can only serve one reactor at a time.)

Ironically, SSM finds such second-rate solutions appropriate for reactors that have been in operation longer than they were designed to be and may be expected to be taken offline "shortly after 2020".

This assessment drew immediate fire from Greenpeace Sweden. The organisation has long studied the problems of over-age reactors, and the statistics clearly show aged reactors to be risky business. Sweden has four reactors that are 40+ − two at Oskarshamn, two at Ringhals.

Rather than trying to save reactor owners' money, Greenpeace argues, the regulator should focus on safety. If their owners don't think the old reactors are worth the expense, maybe it's time to shut them down. Moreover, Greenpeace continues, the determination violates the Environmental Code, which requires use of "best available technology" in all aspects of nuclear safety. It is this last point that may well force SSM to think again.

Jellyfish shut down Swedish nuclear plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

A huge cluster of jellyfish forced the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in Sweden to shut down on 29 September 2013. The jellyfish clogged the pipes that bring in cooling water. It took two days to fix the problem.[1]

Jellyfish have caused problems at many nuclear plants around the world, as have fish and other aquatic life.[3] A few examples:

  • In 2005, one reactor at Oskarshamn was temporarily shut down due to jellyfish.[1]
  • EDF Energy manually shut down the Torness nuclear power plant in Scotland in mid-2011 because jellyfish were obstructing the cooling water intake filters.[3] (In May 2013, the two Torness reactors were temporarily shut down because seaweed blocked the water intake pipe.[4])
  • In 2012 a reactor at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California was shut down after sea salp − a gelatinous, jellyfish-like organism − clogged water intake pipes.[2]
  • In July 2009 a reactor in Japan was forced to temporarily shut down due to infiltration of swarms of jellyfish near the plant.[5] Jellyfish disrupted operation of the Shimane nuclear plant in Japan in 1997 and 2011.[6]

Marine biologists warn the jellyfish phenomenon could become more common. Lene Moller, a researcher at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, said: "It's true that there seems to be more and more of these extreme cases of blooming jellyfish. But it's very difficult to say if there are more jellyfish, because there is no historical data."[1]

Increased fishing of jellyfish predators and global warming are contributing to higher jellyfish populations.[3] Monty Graham, co-author of a study on jellyfish blooms published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June 2011, blames global warming, overfishing, and the nitrification of oceans through fertiliser run-off.[7]

[1] Gary Peach, 1 Oct 2013, 'Wave of jellyfish shuts down Swedish nuke reactor',
[2] Aaron Larson, 1 Oct 2013, 'Nuclear Plant Shut Down Due to Jellyfish',
[3] 'Fire and Jellyfish Threaten Plant Operations', 07/06/2011, POWERnews,
[4] Reuters, 24 May 2013, 'Seaweed stops Scottish EDF nuclear plant',
[5] Monami Thakur, 9 July 2011, 'Millions of Jellyfish Invade Nuclear Reactors in Japan, Israel',
[6] Reuters, 24 June 2011, 'Jellyfish back off at Japan nuclear power plant',
[7] Glenda Kwek, 11 July 2011, 'Jellyfish force shutdown of power plants',

Oskarshamn-1Oskarshamn-2Oskarshamn-3Torness unit ATorness unit BDiablo Canyon 1Diablo Canyon 2Shimane-1Shimane-2

Transuranics, mercury and banned fluids discovered in Swedish nuclear waste repository

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charly Hultén − WISE Sweden

The Spent Fuel Repository (SFR) at Forsmark is the only final repository for nuclear waste in operation in Sweden today. Intended to receive short-lived nuclear isotopes, SFR has long been criticised for both its location and its design. Opened in 1988, it is a child of 1950s and 1960s thinking. Only 60 metres beneath the sea on Sweden's Baltic coast, the repository was created to leak its contents into the Baltic, which Swedish nuclear regulatory authorities still regard as an "appropriate recipient".

One of the facilities that has deposited waste at SFR is a waste treatment facility at Studsvik, another coastal site. Studsvik, too, has been harshly criticised for the effluents it flushes into the sea. It is reputed to be the number one source of caesium pollution to Baltic waters. Studsvik AB has also been a concern on dry land − time and again authorities have urged the company to improve the documentation of its waste management.

In February of this year, some 7,000 metal drums of waste stored at Studsvik were examined to determine their contents. The drums in question contain waste from the early years of Sweden's nuclear industry, when the aim was to develop a nuclear deterrent. It is, in other words, waste from weapons research. They are stored on site, pending the creation of SFL − a special repository for long-lived intermediate-level waste.

There is no proper record of the contents, and the drums are not easily examined. Deep inside several consecutive drums is a concrete block, which isolates whatever needed to be put away. An examination carried out in February, which combined gamma radiation readings and X-ray inspection of the drums, turned up a number of unpleasant surprises: fluids (roughly five cubic metres distributed over some 2000 of the drums, some of which is presumed to be nitric acid), mercury (an estimated 65 kg), lead, and transuranics, including an estimated 300 g plutonium, perhaps twice that amount according to nuclear chemist Christian Ekberg from Chalmers Technical University. Fluids, no matter what kind, are banned because they convey radioactivity so efficiently.

These finds prompted suspicions about the 2,844 drums from Studsvik that, presumed to contain only short-lived isotopes, are already stored in SFR. In early May it was determined that all the Studsvik waste, including the drums in the SFR repository, will have to be X-rayed, sorted and/or treated and then repackaged. Some materials will need to be isolated in blocks of concrete. These various operations will require a new facility.

Retrieval of the waste from SFR, the new facility, and X-ray processing will each be costly. In Sweden the processing and management of nuclear waste is financed via a surcharge on electricity. There is also a specific surcharge of 0.002 euros/kWh to cover the costs of waste from Studsvik. In other words, users of electricity will be footing the bill for decades of nonchalance on the part of the nuclear industry.

Swedish Radiation Safety Authority
The discovery raises a number of issues relating to Swedish nuclear protection philosophy. Both the shallow SFR repository and the very profitable reprocessing plant at Studsvik have their basis in how the regulatory authority, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), goes about assessing the environmental consequences of nuclear facilities. The starting point in SSM's approach is the number of human beings that may come in harm's way as the result of the activity in question.

Sweden is a big country with a small population (roughly 9 million). Large expanses of the country are very sparsely populated. Furthermore, it is difficult to demonstrate how pollution of the Baltic Sea affects human health. Thus, SSM may be more generous in its estimation of the amount of radiation that poses a risk. A case in point: one of the most widely criticised design features of the SFR repository is that it is planned to be filled with sea water once the last drum of waste is in place. There is no doubt that the repository will leak – "from Day One" in the words of Anders Siebert at SSM at a recent hearing. Thus "dilute and disperse" – normally a fallback strategy when the first rule, "concentrate and contain", has failed – is standard practice in Sweden.

In an international context, this approach to human health consequences is also the key to the competitive advantage a company like Studsvik enjoys − it can process scrap imported from countries like Germany, where stricter regulations might render the processes more costly or rule them out entirely.

We should also bear in mind the evolution that has taken place in the field of radiation protection. Professor Jonas Anshelm of Linköping University has analysed ideas about nuclear waste in Sweden in recent decades. Ideas about what is to be considered 'waste', the amount of waste involved, and how long it needs to be isolated, Anshelm says, have changed over the years. "In the 1960s it was encased in concrete and dumped into the sea. In the 1970s, the industry's experts assured us that the waste would fit into a chamber the size of a sports hall. In the 1960s, storage for 100 years was considered sufficient, but today the consensus among experts is that it needs to remain isolated for over a hundred-thousand years," Anshelm points out. Presumptions have changed radically, and they will most surely continue to change, he concludes.

Anshelm is seconded by Sven Odéus, spokesman for Svafo AB, the company in charge of the Studsvik waste. An investigative journalist for Swedish radio asked Odéus how the debacle could arise:

"I think it was just a case of poor management. I don't think it was a deliberate act."

"You mean, they were just careless?"

"Well, I wouldn't say 'careless'. It was the thinking of the day." (Sveriges Radio, Klotet, 6 May 2013.)

The reporter notes that the most recent drums in the Studsvik collection were packed in 1997.

Questions remain: Has the predominant thinking within the industry's waste management company, SKB, evolved? And, if not, is there a will on the part of the regulator to make it evolve?


Power failure at Forsmark
May 30 − one of the Forsmark reactors in Sweden was taken off line for a scheduled check-up and repairs. Shortly thereafter electrical power supply to the reactor went dead, and no emergency back-up power from the mains kicked in. Fortunately, the control room staff was able to start up the diesel generators manually.

The operator assured the public that when offline, a reactor can go without cooling several days before the situation posses a threat. Still, the incident demanded an explanation, and it turns out that the emergency back-up power supply kicks in automatically only when the reactor is online. Whether the system will be automated even during offline periods has yet to be decided.

The strange thing is that the power supply systems were overseen as recently as 2006. Then, power failure deactivated several safety functions while the reactor in question was online. Several experts spoke of a "20 minutes to meltdown" incident. That may be the reason why the regulatory agency SSM has classed this recent failure as a "Class 1" incident. Permission to restart the reactor will be granted only after a thorough report from the operator. The power supply to other reactors at the station are now under review, as well.

Upsala Nya Tidning, 31 May 2013; WISE Sweden

Please note - we made an editing error in Charly's article. The Swedish 'SFR repository' is not the planned repository for spent nuclear fuel. It is, as the second line of the article makes clear, a repository planned for short-lived isotopes, in operation since 1988. Apologies to Charly for our editing error.

WISE Sweden

Swedish n-waste fund grossly underfinanced

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The Swedish Nuclear Waste Fund is showing a deficit of at least 30 thousand-million SEK (€ 3.4 bn), perhaps more. The deficit was turned up by a study group under the auspices of the Swedish Nuclear Safety Authority (SSM). It was to report its findings to date to the Government 31 May, but has now asked for a  one-year extension. The group strongly recommends tripling the fees producers of nuclear energy pay into the fund, from 0.02 SEK/kWh to 0.06.

The study, carried out in collaboration between SSM, the Nuclear Waste Fund and the National Debt Office, was commissioned in October 2011. The actual purpose of the study was to evaluate the need to revise the laws pertaining to the financing of Swedish nuclear waste management, but in the process the deficit and its implications became a major concern. The purpose of the extension is to allow time for a more global evaluation of the deficit and possible need to revise the law. The issues are intertwined. It would be wrong, they argue, to treat the issues separately. The new deadline is 31 May 2013.

In Sweden, all aspects of nuclear waste management – interim and final storage of nuclear fuel waste, the costs of decommissioning and demolition of nuclear reactors, the costs of regulatory authorities pertaining to nuclear waste management, and the entire EIA process surrounding plans for the final repository – are paid for through drafts on the Nuclear Waste Fund.

The balance of the Fund – 48 thousand-million SEK at present – is made up of the sums paid in by the nuclear power companies, based on a fee of 0.02 SEK/kWh. The fee is calculated on the basis of an expected reactor life-time of 40 years. The 0.02 SEK fee – raised by the Government from 0.01 SEK/kWh as recently as December 2011– is only half the rise recommended by the regulator in October of that year.

Management of the fund is closely regulated; investments are limited to government bonds, which currently offer very low interest rates. Low interest rates are one of two major factors behind the critical deficit. But essentially, the simple fact is that too little money is being paid in. There is no buffer, and Daniel Barr, vice-chair of the Nuclear Waste Fund and head of department at the Debt Office, doubts that the specified guarantors will be able to fill the gap in any meaningful way.

Legislative background
The Swedish approach to financing follows the ‘polluter pays principle’; each company pays into the Fund according to the amount of waste its operations give rise to.  A memorandum issued by the SSM in 16 May, recalls two key passages in the documents surrounding the two laws in focus here:

“The aim of the financing system shall be, to the extent possible, to minimize the risk that the government will have to assume the financial responsibilities that the law assigns to the concession holders [owners of nuclear reactors]” (Government Bill 2005/06:183 p 21); and

“The fundamental principle for financing of nuclear waste management is that the nuclear industry – not the tax-payers – shall cover the costs” (SOU 2004:125 p 9).

The memorandum also points out that the financial responsibility extends up to and through the final closure of the repository, whether or not nuclear energy is still being produced in Sweden. Finally, Swedish law authorizes the government to require the companies to specify guarantors that will step in, should the companies be unable to meet their financial responsibilities.

Sveriges Radio reports that the nuclear industry – where government-owned Vattenfall is a key player – reacted strongly to the recommendation of a 0.06 SEK/kWh fee, which would cut deeply into the companies’ profit margin and thus make them less attractive to investors.

The Government’s reception of news of the deficit has been cool. Questions have been raised as to whether the mandate of the study group actually extends to the issue of the Fund’s balance. Minister for the Environment Lena Ek told news reporters at Sveriges Radio that she would prefer not to raise the fee until 2014, the next regularly scheduled opportunity to adjust the fee. (The Government can, however, adjust the fee whenever it deems necessary.)

The day after the SSM requested the one-year extension, Daniel Barr, warned: “Unless the nuclear operators’ fees are raised, Swedish taxpayers will have to foot the bill for managing nuclear fuel waste.” Which would amount to substantial subsidization of nuclear energy on the part of present and future generations.

Sources: SSM  Request for postponement, 10 May 2012 (SSM 2011-4690-3) (in Swedish only),
MKG  Regeringen höjde inte kärnavfallsavgifterna lika mycket som SSM ville. News release posted 22 December 2011, SSM  Memorandum 16 May 2012: Nuclear waste fee for reactor owners (SSM2011-153-25) (in Swedish only), Sveriges Radio, Ekot 31 maj 2012 (morning radio news), Sveriges Radio, Ekot 1 juni 2012 (morning radio news
Contact: WISE Sweden, Charly Hultén
Email: inotherwords[at]

WISE Sweden

South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special

South Africa

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




The 2008 National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act provides for the establishment of a National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute which will manage radioactive waste disposal in South Africa. The responsibility for nuclear waste disposal has been discharged by the Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) until now.  Necsa has been operating the national repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape province. This was commissioned in 1986 for wastes from Koeberg and is financed by fees paid by Eskom. Some low- and intermediate-level waste from hospitals, industry and Necsa itself is disposed of at Necsa's Pelindaba site.(*01)

Koeberg spent fuel is currently stored in pools as well as in casks. The site has enough storage capacity for the spent fuel that will be generated during the current operational lifetime of Koeberg.

Pending the outcome of current investigations into possible reprocessing of spent fuel, it is not classified as radioactive waste. Rather than been in its final form for disposal used fuel is. Interim storage takes place on site, awaiting investigations into the best long term option for the management of spent fuel.(*02) If chosen as a preferred option in South Africa, geological disposal of radioactive waste shall take place with an option for retrieving the waste.(*03)

Plans by Eskom to seek contracts for reprocessing surfaced in August 2009. The stae owned utility and operator of Koeberg said the resulting MOX-fuel could be sold to other countries rather than used at home. It turned out to be a plan to try to finance new build.(*04) Not surprisingly it was never heard of again.

According to Nesca CEO Rob Adams South Africa would need a fully operational high-level waste management site by 2070 to deal with spent fuel. The negotiations with the National Nuclear Regulator to identify a high-level waste disposal site would likely start before 2015. Three possible disposal sites would have to be identified, and three individual environmental impact assessment studies would have to be conducted. Necsa would then argue the case of the most suitable site. Vaalputs will most likely be one of them.(*05)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




Low- and intermediate level wastes is stored at ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba. Spent fuel is stored at the reactor sites awaiting a centralized interim storage and geological disposal A final geological disposal facility is not expected before 2050, at the earliest. No reprocessing of spent fuel takes place, but in the past spent fuel of Vandellos-1 reactor has been reprocessed.

Low-level Waste
In the 1950s, the El Cabril uranium mine was shut down and started to be used for storing low and intermediate level waste. In 1986 ENRESA took responsibility for El Cabril and moved the waste from the mines to new built buildings on the same site.(*01) It is planned to receive waste until 2015.(02) The state-owned radioactive Waste management organization ENRESA, created in 1984, is responsible for managing radioactive waste and decommissioning of nuclear plants.(*03)

High-level waste and spent fuel
ENRESA is since 1987 developing a disposal program aimed at providing a final solution for the spent fuel and high level waste. The program comprised of three areas: identification of suitable sites, conceptual design and performance assessment of a geological repository and research and development.(*04) At that time a repository was expected to be realized by 2020. By end-1990, some 25,000 km2 of possible regions were found. Finally, some 30 areas were identified for further research.(*05)

Although ENRESA had identified favorable areas for further underground research, work was halted in 1996 due to public opposition; or in the words of ENRESA: "the reaction of the public advised to discontinue any field work in 1996."(*06) In 1995, it had become known among environmental groups that ENRESA had plans for the construction of underground disposal laboraties and a list of possible locations was released. The groups accused ENRESA of not having informed the public and of having inspected possible sites. Large demonstrations were organized which culminated in a demonstration of 20,000 people in 1998 at Torrecampo.(*07)  At the end of 1996, the Senate Commission for Industry established an inquiry commission to develop a new waste policy. It had to study the difficulties in finding a site for waste disposal and should include socio-political and public acceptance aspects. The  commission’s work was expected to result in guidelines for the government to develop a legal framework for siting. The commission received contributions from groups and institutions and visited other countries for comparison.(*08)

In 1999 the 5th Radioactive Waste Plan was adopted with a new policy: construction of a centralized interim HLW storage by 2010 for reprocessing waste as well as spent fuel; and no decisions about final disposal before the year 2010.(*09)

In mid 2006 Parliament approved ENRESA's plans to develop an interim centralized high-level  waste and spent fuel storage facility by 2010, and the Nuclear Safety Council CSN approved its design, which was similar to the Habog facility near the Borssele power plant in the Netherlands. In December 2009 the government called for municipalities to volunteer to host this €700 million Almacen Temporal Centralizado (ATC) facility. The government offered to pay up to €7.8 million annually once the facility is operational. It is designed to hold for 100 years 6700 metric tons of used fuel and 2600 m3 of medium-level wastes, plus 12 m3 of high-level waste from reprocessing the Vandellos-1 fuel. The facility is to be built in three stages, each taking five years.  Fourteen towns volunteered, attracted by the prospect of a €700 million investment over 20 years and the annual direct payments, plus many jobs, but only eight were formally accepted.(*10)

In September 2011 the Ministry for Industry announced its selection and rankings: Zarra (Valencia) 736 points; Asco (Tarragona) 732 points; Yebra (Guadalajara) 714 points; Villar de Canas (Cuenca) 692 points. In December 2011 the Ministry announced that Villar de Canas had been selected, though only a 60-year storage period was mentioned. Pending construction, low- and medium-level wastes continues to be sent to ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba, which has operated since 1961. Used fuel remains at individual power plants.(*11)

For Jose Maria Saiz, the mayor of Villar de Canas, the financial compensation and the promise of 300 jobs were compelling arguments to get the storage to his place. That doesn’t alter the fact that environmental groups and trade unions are against the storage.(*12)  And in March 2012 it turned out that promised regional jobs were not materializing and little is left of the initial optimism.(*13)

The General Plan on Radioactive Waste suggests that the operation of a deep repository in Spain would probably start in 2050. Therefore, the period between 2025 and 2040 would be focused on decision-making process and site characterisations, whereas from 2040 to 2050 construction would take place. A programme of activities between 2006 and 2025 to meet the objective of having a repository by 2050 is lacking (Fundación para Estudios sobre la Energía, 2007).

The high level of priority given to the interim storage facility has delayed the interest and the research efforts in deep geological disposal. Furthermore, the construction of the centralised storage facility allows decisions on final management to be postponed.(*14)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




Since the mid-1970s spent nuclear fuel is to be disposed of in a geologic repository. Early plans for reprocessing the spent fuel were abandoned already in the early 1980’s. In the 1970's Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company), SKB, was established to manage the waste (*01 Sweden once dumped low-level waste in the Atlantic Ocean (in 1969) and twice (1959 and 1961) in the Baltic Sea.(*02)

The country wants to dispose its nuclear waste, packed in copper to ensure long-term safety, in granite from 2023/25 on. But problems with copper and geological stability have been published widely. Awaiting final disposal spent fuel is stored in an interim facility in Oskarshamn, called Clab. Low and intermediate-level waste is currently stored in a final repository 50 meters deep in the crystalline basement near the nuclear power plant in Forsmark.(*03)

Long-lasting search
In Sweden, the Parliament decided to a Nuclear Power Act in 1977, which asked for an “absolutely safe solution” for final disposal of nuclear waste and makes the nuclear industry responsible for the management of the waste. The Swedish government started a procedure, called scientific mediation, to clarify the scientific differences. This was followed by discussions with the public, aimed at participation in the decision-making.(*04)

Research to find a final disposal site has taken place for since 1977. Eleven sites were examined, with extensive work undertaken at 7. Test-drillings was planned in 5, but only two of these allowed SKB to carry out even an initial feasibility study: Storuman and Malaa. Several possible locations for the final disposal have been dropped out after referendums, such as Storuman, Malaa(*05) and Gaellivare.(*06) It was obvious by then that the best chance for a repository would be in a municipality that has a nuclear power plant: Forsmark and Oskarshamn, or at the Studsvik research reactor.(*07) The idea is that in these locations such an initiative will most likely gain sufficient support, and SKB limited themselves to the choice of  a site with nuclear power activities. (*Sw08) Municipalities can present themselves voluntarily as a host location, but can also withdraw in a later stage. Although there is a law enabling the government under very specific conditions to overrule such a veto, but this provisions seems very hard to use for any government: this will not happen in practice.(*09)

In 1998, SKB director Peter Nygaards stated that the Swedish government should be prepared to offer financial incentives to a community willing to host the repository. He compared this with the money the government pays to local communities to take in refugees. Similarly, any disposal of nuclear waste must also be reimbursed. Nygaards also said he don’t want to fix the moment of permanently sealing a repository. If the repository is full one should consider if closing is not a better option so that "future generations can open it if they need to?" Nygaards said: "It is not wise to make a decision today for 100,000 years from now".(*10)
 Besides the locations with nuclear power plants, only Tierp volunteered to be a host community for the repository. (*11)

 In November 2001 the government approved research in Tierp, Forsmark and Oskarshamn,(*12) but in April 2002, the city council of Tierp decided to withdraw.(*13)  In June 2009 SKB selected Forsmark.(*14) The repository is proposed to be sited adjacent to the Forsmark nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea coast. On 16 March 2011, SKB applied for a permit.(*15) It plans to begin site works in 2013, with full construction starting in 2015, and operation after 2020.(*16)

Criticism on safety
The KBS method was developed in the 1970s. The basis is a geologic repository at about 500 meter depth in granite bed-rock and the long-term safety is to be guaranteed by artificial barriers – copper canisters surrounded by a bentonite clay buffer.(*17)

There is severe criticism on the disposal method. The nuclear waste is disposed of at 500 meters depth in granite. According to SKB, this is a stable geological formation. But paleo-geophysicist Nils-Axel Mörner states that the stability is not true. Since the end of the last Ice Age the ground went upwards with a rate of one millimeter per day, there were 58 serious earthquakes and 16 tsunamis. As a consequence of these and other factors Mörner finds the repository unstable and not safe.(*18)
In November 2009 another problem arose: the use of copper. The nuclear waste is encased in a copper layer of five centimeters, which has to remain intact for 100,000 years.

Copper corrodes in environments where oxygen is present. The process is easy to observe on copper roof materials that turn green from oxidation. When the industry’s KBS-method was developed in the 1970’s the understanding was that copper does not corrode at all in an anoxic (oxygen-free) environment in the bedrock. During the 1980's a researcher from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Gunnar Hultquist, presented new findings that showed that copper could corrode in environments without oxygen, as long as there is water present. The new findings were denied by SKB and ignored by the authorities. During the autumn of 2007 Gunnar Hultquist and a colleague Peter Szakálos presented the findings again, this time with more experimental results.(*19) This is noticed by investigation of copper artifacts from the Swedish warship Vasa, which sunk in 1628: the copper had become much thinner than expected.(*20) Copper corrosion has caused a discussion about the KBS method in Sweden as the findings threaten basic assumptions underlying the long-term safety of the KBS method.

A geologic repository in Swedish bedrock at a depth of 500 m has groundwater flowing through the repository, says Dr. Johan Swahn, Director of the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) at a hearing on the management of nuclear waste at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.(*21) A repository using the KBS method therefore has to rely on manmade barriers (clay and copper) to isolate the nuclear waste from the environment. The chemical and biological environment will in the long term threaten the artificial barriers of copper and clay in ways that are difficult to foresee. The relatively dry rock (for the KBS method) chosen by SKB in Forsmark puts stress on the clay barrier and opens up for new questions on copper corrosion processes. In Sweden there will be one or more Ice Ages during the next 100,000 years and glaciation will lead to variations in the chemical and biological environment that will affect the man-made barriers.

The safety case for Swedish KBS method is severely questioned and licensing is uncertain. The problems for the KBS method has opened up for questioning whether disposal methods relying on artificial engineered barriers should be implemented at all. The Swedish and Finnish repository programs for spent nuclear are entirely interdependent. If the Swedish program fails, so does automatically the Finnish.(*22)

In short, also in Sweden, nuclear waste disposal is not a fait accompli.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended a tripling of the fee paid by the country's nuclear power industry towards paying for management of the country's nuclear waste. Basing its assessment on information gathered from the relevant organizations - including cost estimates from SKB - SSM has recommended to the government that the fee should be set at 3 öre per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 1 öre per kWh. (1 öre is worth approximately US$0.002)  According to SSM, much of the increase is down to new estimates from SKB indicating that the remaining costs of the country's planned final repository for used nuclear fuel have grown by about SEK 18 billion (US$2.7 billion) from previous estimates made in 2008. SSM also says it believes that SKB has underestimated future costs, and it has adjusted the proposed fee increase to reflect this.(*23)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




In 1969, the first Swiss nuclear power plant, Beznau 1, entered service. As of 1 March 2012 this plant is the oldest nuclear plant in the world.(*01) A geological final repository for high level waste will not be available before 2040, at the earliest: 70 years after the first reactor began operation. Switzerland dumped low- and intermediate level radioactive waste in sea 12 times from 1969-1982.(*i02) It transported the waste by train to the Netherlands, from where it was dumped in the Atlantic Ocean together with the Dutch radioactive waste.(*i03) Spent fuel is temporary stored at the Zwilag central storage facility.

In December 1972, the Nationale Genossenschaft fuer die Lagerung radioaktiver Abfaelle (Swiss organization responsible for the storage of nuclear waste) was created: Nagra:(*04) The operators of the nuclear power plants are 95% owned by Nagra, the government has a share of 5%.(*05) Nagra immediately began investigating the storage of low, intermediate and high-level radioactive waste. This resulted in the project "Gewähr" of 1985. In June 1988 the government decided to take the first steps for low and intermediate radioactive waste, but for high-level waste further research was needed. This was because siting feasibility, i.e. the demonstration that a suitable rock body of sufficient extent could be found at an actual site in Switzerland, had not been demonstrated.(*06)

Low and medium radioactive waste: Wellenberg drops out
In 1993, from a 1978 list of originally 100 sites, Nagra chose Wellenberg (in the canton of Nidwalden). Nagra found Wellenberg suitable for safety reasons, but also because there would be
sufficient storage available.(*07) In the Wellenberg-debate critics of the repository project articulated new concepts: the disposal should be retrievable and verifiable. The Nagra, however, did not agree with that and the debate culminated in a June 1995 referendum. A majority of the Nidwalden population voted against the storage. Given the distribution of powers in Switzerland, storage at Wellenberg was off.(*08) The Nagra then examined how the people of Nidwalden would have voted if the requirement of retrievability and monitoring would have been granted. It turned out that 60.8 percent would have voted 'yes'.(*09)

But Nagra wanted to hold on to Wellenberg and the government agreed to this. In 1998 the Department of Energy repeated that Wellenberg is suitable for retrievable and verifiable disposal of low and intermediate level waste.(*10) So another referendum was organized and on 22 September 2002, a majority (57.5%, turnout was 71%) of the population voted again against the disposal at WellenbergThe government reacted by saying that with this result disposal plans were canceled. This was a hard blow to the nuclear industry, which has spent 80 million francs (€55 million) for research and to propitiate the population.(*11)  But it turned out that Wellenberg was not off the table for ever.

Spent fuel policy
From July 2006 on , there is a 10-year moratorium on the export of spent fuel for reprocessing. Before the moratorium, utilities were free to choose between reprocessing and direct disposal of the spent fuel. The reprocessing took place abroad (France and UK). Dry storage buildings at the Beznau nuclear power plant and at the Zwilag central storage facility have been built for the interim storage of spent fuel and of radioactive waste returned from reprocessing abroad. In addition, a building for the wet storage of spent fuel at the Gösgen nuclear power plant was commissioned in 2008.(*12)

2008: new plan for high-level radioactive waste
On 6 November 2008, the Nagra came with a new waste disposal roadmap: 'Zeit zum handeln'.(*13) Surprisingly, Wellenberg was candidate again for storage of low and intermediate level. In February 2011, for the third time, the population Nidwalden voted against (74.5%) the storage.(*14) But unlike earlier, the district no longer has a right to veto: the government has abolished that in 2002.(*15) Therefore, Wellenberg remains on the list.

In the new roadmap, as a first step, there three regions were chosen: Zürcher Weinland, Nörlich Lägeren and Bözberg. These are three regions in northern Switzerland, where a certain kind of clay (opalinus clay) is found. From 2011 on, regional conferences (attended by 100-200 people) should be held several times per year.(*16) The costs, for each region 1.5 million francs (€1 million) is made available, of which 80% is paid by the Nagra.(*17) Somewhere between 2014 - 2016 two locations in each region should be selected and before 2020 a referendum can take place. After that one site will be chosen for the geological repository. After the repository is constructed and the procedures are completed, the storage can start in 2030 for low- and intermediate-level waste and for high-level waste in 2040 at the earliest. (*18)

The plans raised much protest, as extensively described in the May 2010 issue of Energie und Umwelt (Energy and Environment) of the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES).(*19) In all regions, groups work together to prevent that the nuclear waste goes to the site with the least resistance. Although the government announced it wants to give action groups financial support to make their own studies, this was not settled in May 2010. And while the Nagra asserts that a repository has regional benefits, a study of the canton of Schaffhausen shows the contrary: great regional economic damage is expected. Therefore, SES calls the participation a form of sham democracy.

The government, however, continued the plans and on 1 December, 2011, decided that those sites may remain appropriate on 1 December 2011.(*20) The next four years, further investigation will take place at all sites, and interested parties can participate in regional conferences. After those four years, so in 2016, one site is selected and an application process for a license will start. In 2040, Nagra expects, the actual disposal can start. The Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) together with local groups are protesting the continuation of the process. According to these groups there are 12 unresolved questions about safe disposal of nuclear waste.(*21) These 12 questions should first be resolved before the people can be involved in the disposal. Therefore, these groups are in favor of the suspension of the government's plans.(*22) On March 6, the government, however, sees no reason to stop the procedure and announced that a repository has positive outcomes on the regional economy.(*23)


South Africa
*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in South Africa, December 2011
*02- Nesca: South African National Report for the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, First National Report, October 2008, p.14
*03- Nesca, p.90
*04- Idaho Samizdat: SouthAfrica to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, 28 August 2008
*05- Engineering News: High-level nuclear waste may be disposed of at Vaalputs, 25 March 2009

*01- COWAM: Nuclear Waste Management in Spain : El Cabril and on site storage, COWAM European Concerted Action,  February 2005
*02- Damveld/Van den Berg: Discussion on nuclear waste: A Survey on Public Participation, Decision-making and Discussions in Eight Countries; Spain, January 2000, p.65
*03: ENRESA: Who we are, company website, April 2012
*04- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al: Geological disposal strategy for high level waste in Spain, in: Distec Proceedings, Conference on Disposal Technology, Hamburg, September 1998, p. 206-211
*05- P. Richardson: The Virtual Repository of Radwaste Information: Spain, July 1997 (currently pay site).
*06- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*07: WISE News Communique: Spain: protests against possible radwaste storage site, Nr. 489, 3 April 1998
*08- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*09- OECD/NEA: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD/NEA Member countries: Spain, 2005, p.4-5
*10- World Nuclear News: Spain selects site for waste storage, 3 January 2012
*11- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Spain, Update April 2012
*12- Deutschlandradio: Ein spanisches Dorf jubelt, weil es Atommüll lagern darf (A spanish town rejoices, because it can store nuclear waste),  16 February 2012
*13- Ee-news: Spanien: Atommüll-Lager bringt den Fortschritt nicht (Spain: nuclear waste storage does not bring progress), 21 March 2012 
*14- Meritxell Martell Lamolla: Identifying remaining socio-technical challenges at the national level: Spain, InSOTEC Working Paper (Draft), 1 March 2012

*01- See for an extensive historical overview of the waste problem in Sweden: Miles Goldstick Nuclear waste in Sweden –The problem is not solved!, FMKK, August 1988
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*03- SKB: Our current facilities, company website, visited April 2012
*04- Matthijs Hissemöller and Cees J.H. Midden, Technological Risk, Policy Theories and Public Perception in Connection with the Siting of Hazardous Facilities, Charles Vlek and George Cvetko­vitch (eds), Social Decision Methodology for Technological Projects, Kluwer Academic Publis­hers, 1989, p. 173-194
*05- PJ Richardson, Public Involvement in the Siting of Contenti­ous Facilities; Lessons from the radioactive waste repository siting programs in Canada and the United States, with special reference to the Swedish Repository Siting Process, Swedish Radiation Protection Institute, August 1997, p 26-27
*06- Nuclear Fuel: Another Swedish community rejects repository, 16 June 1997, p.17
*07- Nucleonics Week: Malaa voter rejection turns SKB back to plant sites for repository, 25 September 1997, p.15
*08- Marianne Löwgren: Nuclear Waste Management in Sweden: Balancing Risk Perceptions and Developing Community Consensus, in: Eric B. Herzik and Alvin H. Mushkatel, Problems and Prospects for Nuclear Waste Disposal Policy, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut / London, 1993, p. 105-121
*09- Olof Söderberg: Who Makes Which Decisions When?, in Proceedings DisTec'98, Disposal Technologies and Concepts 1998, International Conference on Radioactive Waste Disposal, 9-11 September, Hamburg, pp. 633-639
*10- Nuclear Fuel: New SKB head endorses cash incentives for repository host, 9 March 1998, p. 8-9
*11- Mark Elam and Göran Sundqvist, The Swedish KBS project: a last word in nuclear fuel safety prepares to conquer the world?, In: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12 Issue 7 & 8 2009, December 2009, p. 969–988
*12- Nuclear Fuel: Swedisch government gives SKB approval to study 3 sites for possible repository, 12 November 2001, p. 8
*13- Nuclear Fuel: Tierp town council votes against site testing for Swedish repository, 15 April 2002, p.10-11
*14: SKB: SKB selects Forsmark for the final repository for spent nuclear fuel, press release 3 June 2009
*15: SKB: SKB turns in application for permit to build a final repository in Forsmark, press release 17 March 2011
*16- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Sweden, February 2012
*17- SKB: Our method of final disposal, company website,
*18- Nils-Axel Mörner: The Shameful Nuclear Power, presentation 16 April 2008. See also: The uplift of Fennoscandia at:
*19- MKG: Copper corrosion, website MKG (Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review)
*20- Technisch Weekblad, 21 November 2009
*21- Dr. Johan Swahn: Considerations on nuclear waste management in Sweden, presentation at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy public hearing on management of nuclear waste, 1 December 2010
*22- Johan Swahn: The Scandinavian Nuclear Waste Strategies, MKG, Expert Hearing Greens in het European Parliament, 8 juni 2010, p.10
*23- World Nuclear News: Swedish waste fees rise to reflect repository cost, 10 October 2011

*01- ee News: Beznau: Aeltestes AKW der Welt wird sichergerechnet, 29 February 2012
*02– IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.50
*03- Dutch Minister of Health and Environmental sanitation: Zwitsers radioactief afval in IJmuiden (Swiss radioactive waste in IJmuiden), Tweede Kamer 15 676 nr 2, 20 July 1979
*04- Nagra: Entwicklung der Nagra 1972 bis 1980 (Development of Nagra 1972-1980), company website, visited April 2012-04-09
*05- Damveld/Van den berg: Discussions on nuclear waste, Laka Foundation, 2000, p.103
*06- Nagra: Opalinus Clay Project. Demonstration of feasibility of disposal (“Entsorgungsnachweis”) for spent fuel, vitrified high-level waste and long-lived intermediate-level waste, December 2002, p.7
*07- M. Fritschi: Standortwahl, (Site selection) in: Nagra Informiert, Nr. 24, June 1994, p.6-12
*08-Luzerner Neuste Nachrichten: Nagra scheitert am Wellenberg, (Nagra fails at Wellenberg) 26 June 1995
*09- Nagra Report: Was halten die Nidwaldner von Wellenberg? (What does population of Nidwalden think of Wellenberg?), Nr. 1/1996, p. 2-3
*10- Nucleonics Week: New Wellenberg studies confirm its safety and feasibility, 24 September 1998, p. 9-10
*11- Nagra News: Sondierstollen in Wellenberg abgelehnt –Wie geht es weiter? (Exploratory tunnels in Wellenberg rejected –How to continue?), December 2002, p.1
*12- NEA/OECD: The control of safety of radioactive waste management and decommissioning in Switzerland, 2011
*13- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, (Time to act), November 2008
*14- Allianz Nein zu neuen AKW: Nidwalden will keinen Atommüll – Atomstrom schon (Nidwalden does not want nuclear waste, but nuclear electricity), 14 February 2011
*15: Das Schweizer Parlament: Curia Vista, Zusammenfassung: 01.022; "MoratoriumPlus" und "Strom ohne Atom". Volksinitiativen und Kernenergiegesetz
*16- Neue Zürcher Zeitung, “Das nationale Endlager wird zur lokalen Frage; Neuartiges Partizipationsverfahren zur Atommüll-Tiefenlagerung”;   10 december 2009
*17- Tagesanzeiger, “Nagra zahlt für Endlager-Regionen”, 5 december 2010
*18- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, November 2008
*19- Energie & Umwelt: Das Atommuellproblem ist nicht geloest (The nuclear waste problem has not been solved), Schweizerische Energie Stiftung, 3/20, May 2010
*20- Bundesrat: Standortsuche für geologische Tiefenlager: Bundesrat legt sechs Gebiete fest und startet Etappe 2 (Search for geological disposal sites: Federal Council sets six sites and starts Stage 2), 1 December 2011
*21- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Die 12 ungelösten Fragen der Schweizer Atommüllentsorgung, (The 12 unanswered questions about the Swiss radioactive waste disposal), December 2011
*22- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Atommüll-Fragen müssen jetzt geklärt werden (Radioactive waste questions must be answered now), 9 January 2012
*23- Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Endlager-Standorte haben keine Garantie auf Entschädigung (Final disposal sites have no right for compensation),  6 March 2012

The review process in Sweden for management of spent nuclear fuel

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On 16 March 2011 the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) ( submitted applications to build a final storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, called KBS-3, at Forsmark. This is the only public review process in the world for dealing with a spent fuel management proposal submitted for legal review by the nuclear industry. Comments from anyone anywhere in the world may be submitted to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court.

Two applications KBS-3 at Forsmark were made by SKB: one to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM)  according to the Nuclear Activities Act and one to the Environmental Court according to the Environmental Code. The applications are together about 9,000 pages of which about 2,000 pages are the same. Some of all this material is in English and some in Swedish. The volume has been growing steadily as translations have been made between the two languages, errata submitted and numerous associated documents added.

Further, in April 2010 the Swedish Government requested a review by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD NEA). The review is administered by SSM. The OECD NEA appointed a 10 member international review team that began working in May 2011, with Michael Sailer from the Öko-Institut in Germany as Chairman.

The Environmental Court and SSM have only published the respective application submitted to them on their respective websites. Both applications are published on SKB’s website. However, it is only the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) that has published both applications as well as all associated documents for both applications on their website. The Environmental Court and SSM, with one exception, only publish an index of documents associated with the respective application that they received – not the full documents as MKG does. The exception is the documents for the OECD NEA review, which SSM is publishing. However, both the Environmental Court and SSM will provide printed documents on request for a fee and some documents by e-mail at no charge.

The first stage in the review processes of both the Environmental Court and SSM is examination of completeness of the respective application submitted. The Environmental Court has requested “comments regarding the need for any supplementary information.” SSM requests comments on “the quality of the application, e.g. whether or not there are deficiencies in the documentation.”

The current deadlines for comments regarding needs for additional information are 1 June 2012 for public comments to SSM and 16 April 2012 to the Environmental Court for everyone except the Municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar, which have until 1 June 2012 (the same deadline given to everyone by SSM). SSM is a main consultation body for the Environmental Court and has been given until 1 November 2012 to submit its comments. The Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste, a committee under the Ministry of the Environment, has also until 1 November 2012.

After any required additional information is incorporated, the Environmental Court currently expects to release the revised application for public comment at the end of 2013, and hold a “main hearing” in the early fall of 2014. The “main hearing” is for oral presentations and is open for the public to make pre-registered submissions and to attend.

This schedule assumes the unlikely occurrence that SKB will be able to comply with requests for additional information within only a few months.

The OECD NEA review is scheduled to be completed by June 2012. The review team has not solicited comments from the public though SSM forwards comments from interested parties to the review team. The OECD NEA International Review Team held hearings of SKB in Stockholm 12, 13 and 15 December 2011 and commented on preliminary findings on 16 December 2011, when a 15 minute question session with the team Chairman was allowed. SSM invited a limited number of observers to participate in these sessions, including representatives from the three environmental groups (Milkas, MKG and SERO) that receive funding from the Nuclear Waste Fund to participate in the overall review process. All the sessions were webcast (see below).

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has responsibility regarding the Espoo Convention to circulate SKB’s revised application according to the Environmental Code (i.e. earliest at the end of 2013).

Contact Information
* Milkas coverage of the review process:
* Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG),
* Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), comments should be sent to in order to be entered into SSM’s index system.
* Information on the OECD NEA review is at: The page is in Swedish but all the attached files are in English, which are at
* The webcast archive of the sessions 12, 13, 15 and 16 December 2011 can be found via:
* The OECD NEA International Review Team Chairman Michael Sailer:,
* The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency,

Nacka District Court, Land and Environmental Court, Comments should be sent to in order to be entered into the Environmental Court’s index system.

Source and Contact: Miles Goldstick, Miljörörelsens kärnavfallssekretariat, Milkas (The Swedish Environmental Movement’s Nuclear Waste Secretariat). Tegelviksgatan 40, 116 41, 116 41 Stockholm, Sweden.
Tel. +46-8-559 22 382
Mail: info[at] 

Sweden: nuclear waste fee tripled

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended a tripling of the fee paid by the country's nuclear power industry towards paying for management of the country's nuclear waste.

SSM has been tasked with assessing what level of fee Sweden's nuclear generators should be required to pay into the country's Nuclear Waste Fund for the next three years. It might be noted that the SSM working group is something new. Previously responsibility for setting the fee was delegated to a single official in the regulatory authority.

Basing its assessment on information gathered from the relevant organisations - including cost estimates from the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co (SKB) - SSM has recommended to the government that the fee should be set at 3 öre per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 1 öre per kWh. (1 öre is worth approximately $0.001) According to SSM, much of the increase is down to new estimates from SKB indicating that the remaining costs of the country's planned final repository for used nuclear fuel have grown by about SEK 18 billion ($2.7 billion) from previous estimates made in 2008. SSM also says it believes that SKB has underestimated future costs, and it has adjusted the proposed fee increase to reflect this.

SSM economist Peter Stoltz described the rise as a "large increase", but said it was necessary to ensure that the state should not be forced to bear the costs of nuclear waste management and decommissioning, which are the responsibility of the nuclear industry. SSM has submitted its proposals to the Swedish government, which will make the final decision on the level of the fee.

The rise in the fee is now being protested vehemently by the nuclear industry and its allies in the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA). “A blow to the nuclear industry”, they say. "And a measure that strikes against Sweden’s ruling coalition’s commitment to a stable, predictable policy climate on energy. What is more, the fee will undermine the country’s ability to meet its climate commitments", which the protesters say should come from greater reliance on (more) electricity.

The Swedish Nature Conservation Association and MKG, an affiliate organization specialized in studying nuclear waste management, applaud the proposal, pointing out that the working group charged to review the financing of nuclear waste management have thoroughly studied the prospective costs and actually recommended an even higher  hike in the fee.  The proposed increase, they point out, is due to a failure to raise the fee levied on nuclear power producers in recent years -- despite awareness that projected costs have risen. In real terms, the rise only reinstates the rate owners of nuclear reactors paid in the mid-1990s.

In a rebuttal of an opinion piece signed by industry spokespersons and members of the IVA in Sweden’s second national newspaper (2 November), the  Nature Conservation Association and MKG point out: “The principal component in the ruling coalition’s agreement on nuclear energy is that there should be no public subsidization of nuclear energy. That is precisely what the proposed increase in the fee would achieve. Future taxpayers should not have to bear the costs of the waste and cleaning up after nuclear power. That is properly the power companies´ responsibility. Clearly, the Government must approve the well-researched proposal of the regulator.”

Source: World Nuclear News, 10 October 2011 / WISE Sweden, 10 November 2011
Contact: WISE Sweden

WISE Sweden

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Iran: Busher reaches first criticality
According to Russian builder AtomStroyExport (ASE),  Iran's first nuclear power reactor Bushehr achieved criticality on 8 May 2011 and is now functioning at the minimum controlled power level. Final commissioning tests will now be carried out prior to start of commercial operation. According to Iranian news agency Fars, the plant is expected to be connected to the national grid within the next two months.
Construction work began on two German-designed pressurised water reactors (PWRs) at the Persian Gulf site in the mid-1970s but was abandoned in 1979 following the Islamic revolution when unit 1 was substantially complete. In 1994, Russia's Minatom agreed to complete unit 1 as a VVER-1000 making use of the infrastructure already in place. However, this necessitated major changes, including fabrication of all the main reactor components in Russia under a construction contract with AtomStroyExport. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said in 2008 that it was no longer planning to complete Bushehr unit 2. Further delays ensued for negotiations over fuel supply for the plant, but two agreements were signed early in 2005 covering the supply of fresh fuel for the reactor and its return to Russia after use, securing the plant's fuel supply needs for the foreseeable future.
In February 2011, only weeks before operation was expected to start, the discovery of debris from damaged coolant pumps meant that all the fresh reactor fuel had to be unloaded, checked and cleaned, and the reactor internals and main circulation pipeline flushed through. Bushehr will produce about 1000 MWe for the Iranian grid; about 3% of the country's power supply.
The following table shows which countries produced nuclear energy for the first time after the 1970’s. Currently, only 10 countries did so (of which 3 weren't independent countries at that time), and if we look at countries who started construction of their first nuclear power station, we find that only China and Romania did so after the 1970’s (as said, Iran started in the 1970's)

Country         start of construction             first power of           

of first n-power plant          first n-reactor           

Slovenia                      3-1975                                    10-1981

Brazil                          5-1971                                    4-1982

Hungary                     8-1974                                    12-1982

Lithuania                    5-1977                                    12-1983

South Africa               7-1976                                    4-1984

Czech Republic          1-1979                                    2-1985

Mexico                       10-1976                                  4-1989

China                          3-1985                                    12-1991

Romania                     7-1982                                    7-1996

Iran                             -1975                                       -2011

So which country will be next? According to the World Nuclear Association nuclear power is under serious consideration in over 45 countries which do not currently have it. However, that is in most cases more whish than reality. It is difficult to predict which country will start with the construction of its first nuclear reactor next: will it be Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Turkey, Jordan or after all the United Arab Emirates?

World Nuclear news, 10 May 2011 / Nuclear Monitor, 21 June 2007 / World Nuclear Association, Emerging nuclear energy countries (visited 25 May 2011)

Big antinuclear demonstration Switzerland. An estimated 20.000 people have held a massive demonstration in northern Switzerland against a possible decision by the government to rely on nuclear energy. The demonstration, staged near the Beznau nuclear power plant, was also attended by people from Germany, Austria and France. According to Maude Poirier, spokeswoman for Sortons du nucleaire, the rally was the biggest protest at nuclear power in Switzerland in 25 years.

Over a thousand high school students went on strike and marched to the centre of Bern on May 24Tuesday, to protest against Switzerland's nuclear energy policy, even though local police had not granted permission for the demonstration.

A day later, on May 25, the Swiss cabinet has called for the phasing out of the country’s five nuclear power reactors and for new energy sources to replace them. The recommendation will be debated in parliament, which is expected to make a final decision in June. If approved, the reactors would be decommissioned between 2019 and 2034 after they have reached their average lifespan of 50 years.

But the delay will anger the antinuclear movement, Greens and the Social Democrats (SP) who had called for nuclear reactors to be closed earlier. And indeed, it looks less like a phase-out scenario and more like an attempt to 'save' nuclear power.

The decision is likely to please business groups who had warned that "a premature shut down of Switzerland's nuclear reactors could lead to higher electricity costs and negatively impact the country's energy-hungry manufacturing sector."

Swiss utility companies Axpo, Alpiq and BKW had expressed an interest in building new nuclear plants and decisions on sites had been expected in mid-2012. (more on Switzerland: Nuclear Monitor 726; 13 May 2011)

Financial Times, 26 May 2011 / Reuters, 25 May 2011 / The Local (Sw.), 24 may 2011

Six potential locations for Danish LLW & ILW repository.
A major step towards a repository for Denmark's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste has been made with the submission of three pre-feasibility studies to the Danish interior and health ministry. The first study, prepared by national decommissioning body Dansk Dekommissionering (DD), looks at different disposal concepts in terms of types of repository, waste conditioning, safety analyses, costs and long-term impact assessments. Overall, the studies conclude that a moderately deep repository would be the most appropriate from a security point of view, although this would be more expensive than a near-surface repository. From 22 areas suggested in preliminary studies, the reports recommend that six potential sites are taken forward for further study. The six identified locations will now be narrowed down to a shortlist of two or three by an inter-ministerial working group in a process that will include the affected municipalities and regions.

Denmark never implemented a commercial nuclear power program but operated a total of three scientific research reactors over the period from the late-1950s up to 2000, as well as associated fuel fabrication facilities. All three reactors – DR-1, DR-2 and DR-3 – were located at the Risø National Laboratory north of Roskilde on the island of Zeeland. Most of the used fuel from the reactors has been returned to the USA, but the country still has a sizeable amount of low and intermediate level radioactive waste which is being stored at Risø pending the selection and construction of a final repository.

World Nuclear News, 5 May 2011

SKB Turns in application for permit to build a final repository.
On March 16, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, applied for a permit to build a final repository for spent nuclear fuel and a facility where the fuel will be encapsulated before being transported to the final repository. SKB's application will now be reviewed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court. The application will subsequently be presented for political decision in the relevant municipalities and by the government. SKB wants to use the so-called KBS-3 method for the repository, in which spent fuel would be placed in copper and steel canisters before being placed in granite bedrock 500 meters below the surface. Bentonite clay would be put around the canisters as a barrier to radioactive leakage. Critics of the plan have repeatedly questioned the choice of copper and its potential for corrosion, among others issues.

The Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, or MKG, an organization that opposes the KBS-3 method, said that SKB has “shown arrogance in the face of criticism” about the method. The group called on Swedish politicians to “take responsibility” and require alternative methods to be further reviewed. MKG  favors a so-called deep-borehole repository, which would be deeper underground than the repository planned by SKB.

SKB is applying for permission to build an encapsulation facility in Oskarshamn Municipality and a final repository for spent nuclear fuel at Forsmark in Östhammar Municipality. (see more on the SKB plans in: Nuclear Monitor 706, 26 March 2010: “Nuclear fuel waste storage: end of the road for the Swedish solution”).

In December 2009 SKB, the industry's jointly owned company for nuclear waste solutions, published a "preliminary" environmental impact statement (EIS) on the KBS-3 scheme. The report failed to meet even rudimentary requirements of an EIS. In January 2010 the SKB unilaterally declared the termination of public consultations on the project (consultations mandated by the Swedish Environmental Code, 1998). SKB makes no apologies, but simply notes that long-awaited updates will be filed together with the formal application.

SKB, 16 March 2011 / Nuclear Fuel, 21 February 2011 / Nuclear Fuel, 21 March 2011 / Nuclear Monitor 706, 26 March, 2010

The 'greying' of the nuclear industry.
Almost a third of Britain's nuclear inspectors are eligible to retire within three years, leaving a potential 'knowledge gap' within the regulator. The Office for Nuclear Regulation has hired 93 new inspectors since 2008. But of the 217 inspectors, 30 per cent are over the age of 57, 11 per cent are over 60 and 70 could retire by 2015. The regulator said that new recruits were needed soon so that the older generation could pass on their expertise and bridge the knowledge gap. Is that what they mean by saying that the nuclear industry has matured?

The Times (UK), 19 May 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Flamanville-3 two years behind schedule. The construction of the second EPR at Flamville (France) faces the  same problems as the first in Olkiluoto (Finland). Flamanville-3 is now two years behind schedule and at least 1 billion euro (US$ 1.3 billion) over budget, EDF Group announced on 30 July. The company said “the target for beginning marketable output” from the French utility’s first Areva EPR “is now set at 2014, with construction costs now re-estimated at around 5 billion euro. The original date for operation was June 2012 and the most recent cost estimate was 4 billion euro, although the original estimate was 3.3 billion euro.

The delay at Flamanville-3 was confirmed as part of the release of information on EDF’s first-half 2010 financial results. EDF reported that first-half net income of 1.659 billion euro was down 46.9% from 3.123 billion the same time last year. First-half 2010 earnings before interest and taxes were 5.289 billion euro, down from 6.784 billion in first-half 2009, although revenues rose, EDF said.
Nucleonics Week, 5 August 2010

Canada: contaminated turbines to Sweden? Bruce Power plans to ship 16 radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden, later this year. Each generator weighs 110 metric tons and contains over 50 trillion becquerels of long-lived man-made radioactive materials, including five isotopes of plutonium. In Sweden, Studsvik plans to melt up to 90 percent of the radiation-laced metal and sell it as 'clean' scrap intended for unrestricted use. In this way, some of the radioactivity will be dispersed into the air (atmospheric emissions), some will be dispersed into the Baltic Sea (liquid effluents), and some will be incorporated into consumer products of all kinds -- razor blades, hair dryers, paper clips, you name it. The remaining 10 percent will be shipped back to Bruce Power for storage as radioactive waste.

Bowing to public pressure, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission recently agreed to a one-day public hearing in Ottawa on September 29 on this issue.
Gordon Edwards, CCNR, 6 August 2010 / Press release Great Lakes United, 18 August 2010

China: Criticality for fast reactor. The Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) achieved sustained fission for the first time on July 21, according to the owner the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA). The reactor will go on to reach a thermal capacity of 60 MW and produce 20 MW in electrical power for the grid. The first sodium-cooled fast reactor in the country, it was built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute.

Beyond this pilot plant, China once planned a 600 MWe commercial scale version by 2020 and a 1500 MWe version in 2030 but these ambitious ideas have been overtaken by the import of ready-developed Russian designs. In October last year an agreement was signed by CIAE and China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) with AtomStroyExport to start pre-project and design works for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 reactors with construction to start in August 2011, probably at a coastal site.
World Nuclear News, 22 July 2010

Funny. Or not…? From a local Cumbrian (U.K.) newspaper: "The issue of councilors declaring an interest during debates about the nuclear industry is again causing concern due to the amount of time it takes. At August 17th full council meeting at Millom, numerous members of Copeland Council were obliged to stand and declare a prejudicial interest in an agenda item about nuclear new builds. Coun Henry Wormstrup, who has become increasingly frustrated by the practice, said the current system needed reform due to the number of councilors employed by or linked to the industry."
Whitehaven News, 18 August 2010

Danger of tritium underestimated. The health risks of tritium may be undervalued because its possible damage to DNA may lead to genetic mutations, says an expert who participated in a White Paper published by the French Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Monitoring (IRSN) on nuclear safety. This radioactive isotope of hydrogen was released in the past by atmospheric testing of atomic weapons and is now produced by nuclear reactors and the reprocessing of nuclear fuels. Its radiotoxicity is low and the impact of its waste, gaseous or liquid, is considered unimportant. However, the IRSN is calling for "further studies" including on "possible hereditary effects". The IRSN added that further research was necessary which was "representative of the actual conditions of exposure."
Le Monde (Fra.) 8 July 2010

Any plutonium in the basement? In Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet Republic Georgia, a container with plutonium was found at a depot of the now defunct Isotope Institute. The plutonium had not been registered with any state entity. Employees of the former institute told the Georgian Public Broadcaster that they had no idea that plutonium was stored at the depot. The plutonium-beryllium was discovered inside a “special container stored in wax and lead, which was quite safe and presented no danger for the environment,” according to Giorgi Nabakhtiani, a nuclear expert with Georgia's Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ministry.

"Georgia plans to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency about the unregistered plutonium." Not mentioned is how many plutonium is in the container, although Nabakhtiani said that the laboratory did not contain enough plutonium-beryllium for use in a radiological "dirty bomb."; 30 July 2010 / Bloomberg, 2 August 2010

Energy Solutions opts not to store Italian nuclear waste in Utah, US. U.S. company Energy Solutions will no longer pursue agreements to dispose of Italian nuclear waste in the state of Utah. The Salt Lake City based company told Utah US Representatives of their plans not to store the imported material at the Clive Facility, 75 miles west of metropolitan Salt Lake City in the Tooele Valley. The company maintains it is not bowing to public pressure, but is making a solid business decision. Environmentalists are calling this a huge victory for the people of Utah.

Energy Solutions was hoping to import 20,000 tons of low level waste from Italy that would have been processed in Tennessee, and then the remaining 1,600 tons would have been held in storage in Utah. The company is hoping to consult with Italian nuclear power authorities to reach an agreement on opening a facility in Italy instead.
Fox13News, Salt Lake Tribune, Associated Press, 14 July 2010

Dangerous censorship. Russian authorities removed information on forest fires in radioactive contaminated regions from internet. Removing of important information may help officials to escape from responsibilities, but can not help to improve situation with forest fire.

On Augusts 13, the head of Russian Emergency Ministry Sergey Shoigu publicly demanded to stop the rumours about radiation danger as a result of forest fires in the region of Bryansk. Immediately after this statement, the governmental organization "Roslesozaschita", responsible for protecting forests, removed information about forest fire in radioactively contaminated zones in the west of Russia from its website. A week earlier, on August 6, "Roslesozaschita" officially announced that since June it registered 507 forest fires in regions partly radioactive contaminated. Moreover, the organization strongly recommended the authorities to inform local population about radiation danger. Also, "Roslesozaschita" it published a list of radioactively contaminated forests on fire (for instance 401 fires in the Chelyabinsk region)

"The Emergency Ministry and "Rosalesozaschita" are acting against Russian Constitution when removing information on fires in radioactively contaminated zones from public use. It is very well known that many fires already happened there and that radiation could be re-distributed into new areas. Instead of censorship, authorities must fully inform Russian citizens and other countries about radioactive danger in Chelyabinsk, Bryansk and other regions," said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman for the Russian environmental group Ecodefense.
Press-release Ecodefense, 14 August 2010

Sutyagin Freed in "Spy" Swap. After serving more than ten years of a 15 year sentence for espionage, Russian arms researcher Igor Sutyagin was freed on July 9 in what is being reported as the largest spy swap between the United States and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Sutyagin was not a spy, but reportedly shared sensitive information about Russian nuclear weapons from public sources with a London firm. His research drew the unwelcome attention of the FSB, Russia¹s secret police successor to the Soviet KGB. His case was taken up by human rights organizations, and the U.S. State Department declared he was a political prisoner. As part of the deal for his release, Sutyagin signed a confession. The Guardian (UK) reports that "Sutyagin's family said he maintained his innocence but agreed to the deal rather than face another four and half years in the 'harsh regime' of the penal colony at Kholmogory near Arkhangelsk." Sutyagin, a father of two girls, had been in prison since in arrest on October 27, 1999.
Nuclear Resister, 9 July 2010

Global Day of Action on Radioactive Waste.
US groups are calling for a radioactive waste action day on September 29, and would like it to be an international day of action! Aim is to push-back on new proposals that would expand radioactive waste production in both the civilian and military sectors

September 29 is the anniversary date for the worst radioactive waste accident (that we know of). In 1957 a tank of liquid, highly radioactive waste left from reprocessing nuclear fuel, exploded in a region of the Soviet Union called Kyshtym in the Ural Mountains of Siberia. The accident was kept secret for several decades, but we now know that it was at a secret nuclear reprocessing site called Mayak. This accident resulted in a regional disaster and a radioactive cloud that contaminated more than 300  square miles…many people received very high radiation exposures, some suffered acute radiation syndrome. Because of secrecy in the nuclear establishment it is not clear what exactly happened but estimates are at least 200 people died of “excess” cancer and scores of villages and towns were permanently abandoned due to the sever radioactive contamination.

Please sign up if you plan to participate so we can have a “master list” of coordinated action – and we can send you any materials we generate…

Contact: Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service Southeast Office, PO Box 7586, Asheville, North Carolina  28802  USA.
Or: Kevin Kamps. Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Beyond Nuclear. 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, Maryland 20912, USA

Has Sweden learned to love nuclear power?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charly Hultén at WISE Sweden

Outside Sweden, the decision to allow what the British call "new build" that was taken in the Swedish Parliament June 17 is widely thought to mean that an eminently "green" Sweden has accepted nuclear power as part of the recipe to "save the climate". Inside Sweden the implications are far less clear. Even the ruling coalition has two contradictory versions of what the decision means!

For one thing, the decision was taken with a margin of only two votes. Had MPs been able to vote their conscience – the party whips were lashing on all sides – the Government's Bill may not have passed at all. The opposition has said that if they win the election this Fall, they will tear the decision up. So, talk of "Sweden" having changed "its" mind about nuclear is a very misleading generalization.

Nuclear Monitor 's editors have asked for an assessment of what has happened, what it means, and what is likely to happen when the dust has settled. Even the first part is complicated. Answers to the other two questions tend to depend on who you are talking to. All I can do is report different assessments

As an issue, nuclear power in Sweden continues to split both parties and coalitions rather than differentiate between them. Consequently, few political leaders can afford to be categorical. It is also important to understand that the parliamentary system seems to be tending toward a two-party system: the ruling Conservative-led 'Alliance' vs. the so-called 'Red-Green coalition' (see box 'Understanding Sweden').

The two bills voted into law had three elements:

  1. The existing nuclear plant may be replaced by new reactors – no more than ten in number, but each producing significantly more electricity – in the three communities where reactors currently operate. No new reactor can be put on line unless an existing reactor is permanently retired. Laws calling for total phase-out of Sweden's nuclear program in 2010 and a ban on planning and construction of new reactors have been scrapped.
  2. The insurance requirement for licensed operators has quadrupled from 3 billion Swedish Krona to 12 billion SEK (US$1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euro). This part is to take effect August 1.
  3. Owners of nuclear power reactors will have unlimited financial liability for the consequences of nuclear accidents. Sounds good, but there are limits -- more below.

A fourth point, a ban on public subsidies, direct or indirect, surfaced when the Parliamentary committee responded to a motion filed by Sven Bergström, Center Party (see below).

No commitment to renewables – described by the Minister for Energy on June 17 as "the most ambitious in the world" – was mentioned in the bills.

Understanding Sweden: Deep background
Nuclear energy has been a divisive political issue in Sweden from its first beginnings in the 1960s. But until the late 1970s Swedish energy policy was largely an internal matter within the ruling Social Democratic Party. From the 1950s into the 1970s, Sweden also had a secret defense agenda that included a nuclear bomb. But, in fact, the Social Democrats were divided on the issue of nuclear, and the shock wave following the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in the USA, led to a decision to let the people, not the parties, decide the future of nuclear energy. Six of a planned 12 publicly financed reactors were nearing completion, but public opinion had clearly shifted away from nuclear.

A national referendum was held in 1980. It was a strange affair. The people could vote for one of three alternatives:
Linje 1 (Conservatives): Continued reliance on nuclear energy. No limits.
Linje 2 (Social Democrats and Liberals): Continued expansion from 6 to 12 reactors, followed by a gradual phase-out of all 12, as renewable sources of energy became available.
Linje 3 (Center Party, Christian-Democrats, Left): No to nuclear: stop construction and decommission the existing 6 reactors as soon as possible. (The Green Party did not yet exist.)

The Yes-but-No alternative got most votes. Linje 1 got only 18%. There were dissidents in all parties; not even the Conservatives were totally unified.

Shortly after the referendum Parliament passed a law that envisaged a gradual phase-out of the nuclear program. All 12 reactors would be taken off line by 2010. Only two have been decommissioned so far.

Sadly, the main legacy of the referendum was a bitter polarization of opinion – which to some extent has dampened political interest in renewables as alternatives.

Times change. The political front lines on energy policy today are quite different from those in 1980. Today, Sweden is governed by a Conservative-led "Alliance" in which Center, Liberals and Christian-Democrats participate. A recent change of course on the part of the Center Party leadership made it possible for the Alliance to introduce the two Bills that were voted into law June 17. Many Center voters are still 'in shock'; how they choose to vote in this year's election may decide the fate of the Alliance.

The three Opposition parties -- Social Democrats, Greens and Left -- are running on a common platform that includes a call for phase-out of nuclear. Whereas the party leaders are agreed, the Social Democratic and Left parties have many dissidents, who are more worried about unemployment than 'sustainable energy solutions'. In Sweden there is, namely, a common belief that nuclear energy means cheap electricity, and cheap electricity means jobs.

Finally, the fact remains that the Social Democrats were responsible for the failure to phase out nuclear in the twenty-odd years they ruled since 1980. Has the party changed its stripes?

How we got here
The Alliance was able to win the last election (2006), thanks in part to a pledge not to embark on any new policy regarding nuclear energy. The purpose of this pledge, repeated in the Cabinet's program declaration, was to keep the Center Party's voter-base intact by neutralizing nuclear energy as an issue.

In February 2009 the Alliance parties reached an agreement, whereby phase-out would be abandoned and old reactors might be replaced with new. At the same time, a commitment to renewable energy sources would be written into Alliance energy policy. The agreement was possible thanks to a reversal of policy in the Center Party. They have traded their once firm opposition to nuclear power for Alliance support for renewables – which, critics say, would have been given, anyway. After all, even the most nuclear-friendly politician knows the value of 'greenwash'.

The government introduced its Bills on March 23 -- ironically, on the day of the thirtieth anniversary of the 1980 referendum. Swedish parliamentary procedure then gives the parties time to file motions on a Bill; the motions are referred to the relevant committee, which review the Bill in the light of the motions. The (possibly amended) Bill then is put to a vote.

Three motions were filed. The Alliance moved to adopt the Bills; the Red-Green coalition moved to reject them. The third motion was filed by Center Party MP Sven Bergström, who had declared his opposition to the new party line. He was ostensibly one of four dissidents among the Alliance parties' MPs. His demands:

1. The Government should postpone rescinding the current ban on new reactors until 2011. After all, the Alliance had pledged not to change energy policy during the current term of office.

2. The Government should be more specific about the agreed-on principle that "no subsidies, direct or indirect" will be extended to new nuclear reactors.

3. The Bill needs clarification on the question of liability. Power companies should, as in Germany, bear "unlimited liability" for any damage, including impaired effects, resulting from nuclear accidents that occur in their facilities.

The first two points were agreed to; the third, handled by another committee, took more time and hardly resulted in anything approaching the German law.

Bergström declared his satisfaction and swung 'round to support the Bills.

He admits that his motion was drafted "in consultation with" the party leadership, and in a newspaper interview May 19 he related how some of his conscience-torn Center colleagues had come and congratulated him: "Now it will be easier for them to vote Yes," he said. In all fairness, Bergström may be credited with having revived the ban on public subsidies. Nonetheless, the prime purpose of the motion appears to have been to secure passage of the Bill and to pacify those Center voters who have trouble swallowing the new party line.

Bills 2009/2010:172 and 173 were put to the vote on June 17. Two Center dissidents followed their conscience and voted No. The Bills were passed with a margin of two votes. It is fair to say that the Bills voted into law June 17 are a new attempt by the Alliance parties to neutralize the issue in time for the election this coming September. But, is Center's voter-base still intact this time 'round?

Bones of contention
Public subsidies
The original agreement on energy policy among the Alliance parties included a ban on public financing of new reactors. The Bill put before the Parliament referred to that agreement, but did not actually include the ban among the amendments the new law would entail. This 'detail' resurfaced in the parliamentary committee's treatment of the above-mentioned motion filed by Sven Bergström. The committee writes: "As the concept, 'subsidy' does not always have a precise definition, the Committee sees some value in a clarification by the Government of what is intended in this particular case. The Committee recommends that Parliament unequivocally state as its opinion, that public support to nuclear energy cannot be counted on." So voted the Parliament. The Committee, for its part, instructed the Government to clarify its position.

But, what exactly does "cannot be counted on" mean? How broad, how strong a ban is it? Does it mean (A) Under no circumstances will public funding ever be extended to nuclear power projects? (B) The present Government and Parliament will not spend public money on such projects? or (C) Any consortium that plans such a project will have to present an economic plan that covers all costs from other sources, but in the event of a financial emergency public funding might be made available?

Secondly, what is meant by "public support"? The current Finnish project at Olkiluoto offers a regular catalogue of kinds of subsidies, overt and covert. Has the Parliament voted to rule out credit guarantees? For example.

At this writing neither question has been answered. Moreover, most observers assume that the ruling would apply only to Swedish tax money, that the door remains open, should other governments wish to participate.

"Unlimited liability"
First of all, it should be noted that "unlimited liability", as used here, is a narrow legal term. I quote from the Bill (section 7.1, p 53): "An unlimited liability means ... only that the legislator has not set any fixed limit to the liability." The previous law relating to nuclear responsibility put a ceiling on the amount an actor would have to pay, the new law does not. Ergo liability is 'unlimited'.

The former law limited a company's actual liability to the amount of its insurance coverage; its assets were protected. The new law removes that protection. Bankruptcy due to a major accident is now possible – but unlikely, in the Government's view.

In keeping with the requirements of the Paris Convention public money will be used to compensate claim-holders who have not been able to receive compensation from the nuclear reactor owner (section 7.1, p 52). This is of particular importance in Sweden inasmuch as the law holds the reactor owner liable for damages. In Sweden reactor owners are subsidiaries of the power giants, and have very limited assets of their own. The Bill explicitly exempts the power companies from liability (section 7.1, p 54):"That liability is unlimited does not mean that the owners of a reactor owner shall be held liable to pay out compensation for damage due to a radiological accident."

Here, most of the debate is due not to a lack of clarity in the Bill, but to a misunderstanding of the scope of the technical term. Still, there are questionable points. Should the power giants be protected from financial liability? It is, after all, their greed that made the owners force the operators at Barsebäck (now decommissioned) to disregard a faulty valve in the cooling system for months. The problem was detected during the season of peak demand, and the owner ordered continued production. The parent company pocketed the profits. Problems like this will continue as long as those who have a profit interest are held 'blameless'.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation urges that nuclear power companies be held fully liable for any damage their reactors cause. Nonetheless, the Bill is an improvement over the previous law. Greater liability will hopefully mean a sharper focus on safety issues, the SSNC concludes.

What next?
The new law limits the number of Swedish reactors to ten, but capacity might increase 3- to 4-fold in each. Will the new law actually result in ten new Swedish reactors? Will it result in any, at all?

Perhaps the only way to describe the outlook is to present a spectrum of comments as to the consequences of the vote. Let us start with the industry itself.

OKG, owner-operator of the three reactors at Oskarshamn, is already at the drawing boards. Their oldest reactor is ready for retirement, and the change in policy has been long awaited.

The Alliance has voiced two diametrically opposed assessments:

1. The Liberal Party is now Sweden's most nuclear-friendly party. Liberal spokesman Carl B. Hamilton sees the vote as a breakthrough long overdue. No longer will 'policy' stand in the way of technological development. Hamilton is highly critical of the arbitrary deadlines and priorities that have kept nuclear power in Sweden from developing as it has in other countries, like France. "Finally! The door stands open!" Glut is no problem, not when cables connect Sweden with the rest of Europe. Investors are sure to step forward; nuclear is a money-maker. The only clouds on Hamilton's horizon are interest rates. Unless interest rates remain low, financing may prove difficult.

2. All along, Center Party leadership (and MP Sven Bergström) has claimed that lifting the ban on 'new build' means nothing. The negative incentives that increased financial liability implies will only make nuclear even less attractive to investors. And where has nuclear energy ever been built without massive public subsidies? Just look at the Finnish reactor at Olkiluoto!

The Center Party is also hard-pressed to show environmental gains. The party has two key Cabinet posts: Industry and Energy. Both ministers stress that the Alliance has committed to public investments in renewable energy, notably, bio-fuels. Maud Olofsson, the party leader and Minister of Industry, goes so far as to say that Center's backing off on nuclear was necessary in order to break a decades-long deadlock and get that commitment from other Alliance parties. There are two problems here. The gains, especially in wind power, the Ministers point to were made before the party's about-face; the gains they expect were not included in the Bill, and the "most ambitious commitment in the world" has yet to see the light of day. Secondly, there is the problem of glut on the electricity market. How may it be expected to impact on industry's willingness to invest in in-house co-generation and energy efficiency? How will it affect the market for electricity from renewable sources?

Maria Wetterstrand, MP and spokesperson for the Greens, deplores what the party considers "the most far-reaching energy policy decision that the Parliament has ever taken. It can lead to a dependency on nuclear power for the next 100 years and will have consequences for 100,000 years" (Riksdagen, press release June 17).

Jonas Sjöstedt, former MEP for the Left, worries that continued dependence on nuclear energy will heighten pressures to start mining uranium in Sweden – which would have disastrous consequences for the environment. He also points out that any ban on subsidies can easily be circumvented (

The Red-Green Opposition have declared that if they win the election they will tear up the June 17 decision and reinstate the ban: "Nuclear is a dangerous technology. It should be phased-out successively -- at a pace consonant with high employment, welfare and the ability of renewables to meet Sweden's energy needs" (Riksdagen, press release May 27).

There has been some discussion in Danish environmental circles of the impact overproduction of electricity in Sweden may have on Danish wind power. The key factor is whether or not glut leads to falling prices. This may not be the case, inasmuch as Sweden plans to produce for the European market and has no reason to give any discounts.

To sum up...
The most uncertain factor here in Sweden is the outcome of the September election. As things stand today public sympathies are fairly evenly divided between the two blocs. But, two of the Alliance parties are dangerously close to the 4% threshold that qualifies parties for representation in Parliament. One of the two is Center. If either of the parties sinks under the threshold, the Red-Green coalition will most likely win.

Does the new policy mean that Swedish nuclear is on the rebound? Yes and no.

Yes: The phase-out has been abandoned, but then de facto the deadline has been abandoned for many years. At the turn of the century, who could expect all eleven of the remaining reactors to be taken off line by 2010? One might have hoped for more than just one (Barsebäck 2 in 2002), but all eleven?

No: Sweden is divided on nuclear power. Center has shown where its loyalties lie. Voters who don't like nuclear power can only vote Red or Green this coming September. On the other hand, just how the Red-Green coalition will perform once in office, is hardly a sure thing.

Source and contact: Charly Hultén at WISE Sweden

WISE Sweden

Nuclear fuel waste storage: end of the road for "The Swedish Solution"?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charly Hultén

After nearly three decades of R&D efforts, close observers are asking themselves if perhaps the Swedish nuclear industry hasn't reached a dead end concerning nuclear waste storage. The question arises after SKB AB, the industry's jointly owned company for nuclear waste solutions, published a "preliminary" environmental impact statement (EIS) on the KBS-3 scheme in December of last year. The report fails to meet even rudimentary requirements of an EIS. On the whole, it seems a half-hearted effort.

In January 2010 the SKB AB unilaterally declared the termination of public consultations on the project (consultations mandated by the Swedish Environmental Code, 1998). SKB AB makes no apologies, but simply notes that long-awaited updates will be filed together with the formal application. This is a blatant violation of the Code (ch. 6, para. 4), which requires that the public be given an opportunity to discuss and question all the aspects covered in an EIS.

Consultations are an integral part of the approval process. It should be noted, however, that the consultations have never been the dialogues envisaged by the lawmakers. (*1) SKB has shown a lack of interest that borders on hostility on the part of SKB AB. As the largest umbrella organization, MKG (the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review*2), puts it: "The company's chief purpose in the consultations appears to have been to rebut and reject participants' comments and questions rather than discuss them in any open manner".

It is a matter of public record that the KBS project has encountered difficulties with both of the man-made barriers that are intended to isolate the fuel waste. KBS-3 involves storage of spent fuel rods in copper canisters, about 400 meters down in granite bedrock. No resolution of the problems (uncertainty about the behavior of the clay buffer in the repository after closure, and empirical evidence that copper corrodes, even in the absence of atmospheric oxygen) has been reported.

Add to this a recommendation in January of this year from the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste, a body of scholars that advises the Swedish Government on issues relating to nuclear waste storage, that retrievability of the waste should be considered. The recommendation is a total reversal of government policy. SKB AB has earlier made a point of how difficult it would be for anyone to access and retrieve the contents of a KBS repository, once sealed.

The approval process

An EIS, addressed to one of Sweden's Environmental Courts, must accompany all applications for permits to undertake a project. Sets of requirements concerning aspects that have to be taken into account are set out in the Code and in the Law on Nuclear Technology (KTL) (1983).

Briefly the approval process is this: SKB AB submits an application as provided in both the Environmental Code and KTL, which incorporates criteria set out in the Radiation Protection Law. The application under the Environmental Code is considered by the Environmental Court; the application under KTL is considered by the regulator, the Nuclear Safety Authority. The Court and the Authority submit their findings to the Cabinet, which decides whether or not the project is allowable. (The Cabinet may choose to override the findings of the Court. This happened in a previous case involving the upgrading of reactors at Ringtails)

A "preliminary" EIS
The essential purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement is to describe a project's actual, probable and possible consequences for human beings and the natural environment. The document SKB AB issued in December 2009 is marked "preliminary", but even that label hardly prepares the reader for what is to come. The most central issues – those relating to the long-term safety of the repository, the choice of method and evaluation of alternative methods, the siting – receive the least attention. The company states, without supporting argumentation, that the proposed method for storing nuclear fuel waste will not have any impacts on human beings or the natural environment.

The principal faults – those to be discussed here – are (1) a nearly total absence of discussion of radiological consequences, in either the short or long term, (2) a failure to update safety analyses since the most recent report in 2006, then clearly "work in progress", (3) an overall limitation of the time-frame to the construction and loading phases, (4) no attempt to justify the choice of KBS-3 in terms of "best available technology", which would entail serious evaluation of alternative methods, (5) SKB AB's literal interpretation of the so-called "zero alternative", i.e., as making no attempt to do anything, only to "make do" with what already exists, and last, but hardly least (6) no attempt to convince either the court or the general public that the location (immediately adjacent to the Forsmark reactors in Östhammar) is the best Sweden has to offer.

The Swedish environmental groups are unanimous in their criticisms of an extraordinarily poor document and focus on essentially the same points. Interestingly, in addition, two municipalities – one of which the intended site of the repository – criticize the document, as does the provincial government of Åland (Finland). The following comments synthesize these comments.

Radiological consequences and safety
Three of the document's 348 pages are devoted to long-term safety. 

The criticisms of the environmental movement fall into two categories: complaints about SKB ABs procedure, and concern about the actual safety of the KBS project.

The procedural complaints are specifically Swedish. Briefly, they focus on SKB AB's failure to submit updated safety data and analysis for consultation.

The most recent safety report (SR-Can) was published in 2006. A lot has happened since then. For one thing, the more detailed investigation of the two prospective sites has produced a lot of data. Also, SKB AB has acquired and presumably implemented new modeling software. A progress report published in 2007 assured readers that new modeling software would greatly improve the company's ability to understand interactive processes and to assess risks. Also, the above-mentioned problems concerning bentonite clay and copper corrosion have surfaced since the 2006 report. None of these developments are discussed in the EIS document.

Secondly, the preliminary EIS is essentially limited to the construction and loading phases of the project, i.e., the next 70 years or so. The reason given for this is that there will not be any leakage from the repository for at least 100.000 years. Consequently, there are no effects and environmental consequences to be reported. This is pure conjecture on SKB AB's part.

The EIS comes nowhere near fulfilling the requirements of an EIS according to Swedish law.

Scenarios should be elaborated for all possible contingencies: one or more broken canisters, erosion of the buffer, climate-instigated flooding of the repository in sea water, a serious accident in a Forsmark reactor, deliberate incursion, a terrorist attack, societal developments that lead to abandonment of the facility, etc. Low probability does not eliminate the need to consider all that may go wrong.

Time and again the radiation protection authority, SSI (now part of SSM) has urged the company to pay more attention to risk management and safety analysis. As late as 2007 authorities called for better quality assurance of the predictive models and pointed to the need to consider the eventuality that the repository might leak early on in the process. Time and again the company has procrastinated. First, until the prospective locations were inventoried, then until the safety follow-up would be published (it hasn't been), and now for the findings of dozens of technical reports that both exist (there are references to specific pages) and do not exist (they have yet to be published). Why the secrecy?

Safety concerns 
The key factors in terms of long-term safety are the toxicity of the waste, the extreme length of time involved, and the risk of nuclear proliferation.

The radiological safety of the project remains by far the most important aspect. In contacts with the public, however, SKB AB has consistently played down issues relating to the high rates of radiation in the fuel waste and the long-term threat from long-lived isotopes. As MKG, the largest umbrella group puts it: "Had the environmental movement not been present at the consultations, the average citizen would most probably have been left with the impression that it was simply a question of burying a bunch of copper canisters”.

A major question with regard to long-term safety is the prospect of a coming ice age. The repository must withstand at least one period of glaciation, which entails enormous stresses.

The integrity of the bedrock will have been compromised by the installation itself. Will a KBS-3 repository only 400 m. down in the midst of a tectonic zone survive?


Non-retrievability is a criterion for what may be considered a "final storage" solution in Swedish law. Two of the original aims of the KBS project were to produce a repository that (1) prevents unlawful handling of nuclear waste, and (2) requires no supervision or maintenance. Neither of these aims has been achieved.

There is no discussion of the need to guard or monitor the KBS-3 repository. On the contrary, the company continues to maintain that no supervision will be necessary.

The environmental movement's position is this: There is plutonium in a nuclear waste repository for over 100.000 years. This means that a repository of the KBS type has to be guarded that long. And, clearly, there is a need to monitor emissions from the repository after it is sealed.

BAT? Who's to say?
Back in the 1980s, SKB engineers were quick to settle on the KBS concept. For many years, any backing away from KBS-3 might endanger the nation's commitment to nuclear energy.

The environmental movement's principal complaints concern
• Uncertainty about the performance of the man-made barriers (copper canisters and clay buffer);
• The scarcity of copper as a resource;
• The waste of the remaining energy in spent fuel;
• No fuel waste repository should rely primarily on man-made barriers.

The KBS-3 system is often described as a "multiple barrier system", in which the barriers are copper, bentonite clay and the bedrock. We consider this description misleading. There may be three tiers in the system, but they are all mutually dependent. Functional redundancy is a fundamental principle in safety engineering. That is, all functions of importance to safety should be independent, each able to guarantee safety on its own.

The task before SKB AB today, as they finalize their application for permits to build, is to demonstrate that the Best Available Technology (BAT) will be used at every step and in every phase of the handling and storage of fuel waste and other high-level nuclear waste, while showing that the methods in question have been proven reliable. SKB must show that the KBS-3 method uses raw materials and energy efficiently and economically, and the company is expected to discuss the pros and cons of each alternative relative to the KBS-3 method.

Is this Mission Impossible? To show that KBS-3 makes use of the best available technology presumes that other methods have been evaluated. Consideration of alternative methods has been required by law since the late 1980s, but SKB AB has consistently refused to spend time, money or effort on any of them. That refusal now undermines the company's claim that KBS-3 is the best available technology.

Deep boreholes have emerged as the principal alternative to KBS-3. (*3) MKG, who recommend this alternative, characterize its treatment:

"Over the years, MKG notes, the company's treatment of the literature on deep boreholes has increasingly focused on the problems associated with the method, and most recently, SKB AB has constructed additional problems on its own that have no basis in empirical study”.

SKB AB, for their part, has stated that the company has no need of further data.

The barriers
Nuclear fuel waste needs to be kept away from human beings and the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. It is unreasonable to believe that man-made barriers can do this over such a long time span.

The gaps between the models' predictions and actual performance of the clay and copper have widened considerably in recent years. At the same time SKB AB has shown less interest in further empirical study of the barriers. As the deadline for the application approaches, the company finds itself unable either to describe the performance of the barriers or to verify the accuracy of the models.

A key assumption from the start of the KBS project is that there would be no corrosion of the copper canisters in an oxygen-free environment. Judging from what has been published, however, no long-term studies of corrosion in a simulated repository setting have been done since the early 1980s. There has been no systematic follow-up, and no evidence has been published to support the models' (theoretical) assurance that the rate of corrosion will decline one thousand-fold in the repository environment. On the contrary, say researchers at the Royal Technological University in Stockholm, the KBS canisters may fail after only 1000 years. Obviously, SKB AB's presumption of safety requires some form of validation.

There are concerns about the behavior of the bentonite clay buffer. Will it swell at the rate posited? Analyses of data presented in the most recent safety analysis performed by Swedish regulatory authorities (2006) suggest that it may take thousands of years before the clay has filled the repository chambers. Will the clay remain in the repository through an ice age, considering all the hydrological and seismic events glaciation entails? The Radiation Safety Authority has expressed concern that SKB AB has been optimistic about the risks of erosion.

Finally, most of the empirical studies done to date have approximated the bedrock formation at Oskarshamn, not the much drier rock at Forsmark. No replications adapted to the actual site are planned, SKB AB has announced.

Is Forsmark really the best place?
SKB ABs localization process has not been systematic, has not been based on a priori criteria, and has been guided by other priorities than long-term environmental safety. The criteria for selection of the location have changed with the progress of the process. In the end, the company confined its investigations to the two nuclear energy municipalities, Oskarshamn and Östhammar (Forsmark). The choice seems to have been made more on the basis of political acceptance than geological suitability – which, of course, loses all relevance in the context of 100.000 years. Is Forsmark really the best Sweden has to offer?

SKB AB has not seen fit to outline the motives underlying the choice of site. Some drawbacks are obvious, however. The proposed site is coastal, the bedrock is in a (currently passive) shear zone (i.e. a fault), and the rock is drier than that originally envisaged for the KBS concept. The shallow positioning (400 m. underground) leaves the repository at risk of inundation by sea water – which may have chemical as well as mechanical impacts on the crucial clay buffer.

The environmental movement also questions the wisdom of siting repositories next to reactors.

We also favor an inland site, where leakage can better be contained and retarded (up to one thousand-fold), and the Baltic Sea is not the immediate recipient.

The Baltic Sea – a "robust recipient"?
FUD-report 2007 (p. 362) describes the Baltic as "the ultimate destination" of leakage from the KBS-3 repository – which the company believes will occur sooner or later in the "life" of the repository. Planned reliance on dilution in the biosphere is not acceptable to environmentalists.

To consider any sea an "appropriate recipient" for radioactive leakage reflects a poor understanding of ecological relationships. The best farmland in the province around Forsmark was sea bottom "only yesterday" in relation to the time the waste will remain a danger.

SKB AB has to clarify how they can state that the environmental impact of releases of drainage from the repository will be "modest" in as much as "the recipient is judged to be relatively robust". No support for the statement is given.

Åland, an archipelago between Sweden and Finland, lies only 60 kilometers from the proposed site. Consequently, the islanders – including the provincial government and the Municipality of Eckerö – are particularly sensitive to the use of the Baltic Sea as a recipient of possible leakage from the repository. Ålanders urge that cumulative effects of nuclear installations around the Baltic Sea be taken into account. The Municipality calls for a stop to the radiological pollution of the Baltic. All comments from Åland object to a coastal siting of the Swedish repository.

The people of Åland are also concerned that SKB AB plans to transport all fuel waste to Forsmark by sea. The EIS, they point out, lacks all discussion of how an accident at sea might be handled. In view of the overall condition of the Baltic Sea they question the wisdom of allowing transports of this kind in Baltic waters.

When one has read the EIS and the well-founded criticisms of it, the question arises: How could SKB AB get it so wrong?

The responses reviewed offer a number of possible explanations.

• Might it be over-confidence on the part of the company's engineers and management? Are they so convinced that all will function perfectly, that they see no reason to problematize their scheme? Does the corporate culture at SKB encourage critical thinking?
• Can it be that SKB still believes that the Environmental Code should not apply to nuclear technologies – a standpoint they lobbied for intensively for many years?
• Some groups put it down to the company's subversion of the consultation process. Had they only been willing to listen ....

Whether or not consultations are a futile exercise, the environmental groups and the Municipality of Östhammar argue that the process cannot be terminated until all relevant data and information have been put on the table. Several groups call for a continuation, but with some other, less partisan body in charge of the meetings and their documentation.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that SKB AB seems to have a long way to go before they can fulfill the requirements of the law. And the issue of retrievability alone is enough to send the company's engineers back to their drawing boards for a long, long time.

*1- For a personal assessment of the consultation process, see Hultén, C (2007) "Still Waiting for Glasnost", posted at
*2- The umbrella organization includes the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation with nearly 140.000 members and local chapters throughout Sweden. MKG has full-time staff devoted to nuclear waste storage issues.
*3- For a presentation of the deep borehole approach see Åhåll, KI (2006). Final Deposition of High-level Nuclear Waste in Very Deep Boreholes, posted at

See also: Nuclear Monitor 661, 11 October 2007: "Comparative study of public involvement in radioactive waste management" and Nuclear Monitor 673, 5 June 2008: "Sweden: radiation protection authority faults fundaments in KBS repository scheme"

With one exception the documents, in Swedish only, may be downloaded at The Eckerö community response may be accessed at

Contributors: Ålands Natur & Miljö/ Aktionsgruppen för ett atomkraftsfritt Åland; Milkas (Swedish Environmental Movement's Nuclear Waste Secretariat); OSS/Avfallskedjan (OSS/The Waste Network); SERO – Sveriges Energiföreningars Riks Organisation

Sveriges Naturförening/MKG (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation/Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review); Eckerö community (Åland); Östhammar community (Sweden); Ålands landskapsregering

Source and contact: WISE Sweden, Charly Hultén

WISE Sweden

MILKAS conference invitation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear Waste Problems - from Mining to Reactor Waste

International Conference, 17-18 Oct. 2009, Stockholm, Sweden

International speakers will give presentations about issues as:

  • Which consequences does radiation has on the biologic diversity?
  • ​Is deep underground disposal the solution for radioactive waste?
  • Does a nuclear power station during ‘normal’ operation emits radiation? If so, how much?

The conference is in English. Costs are 55 euro per person, including refreshments and lunch. Travel and accomodation are at own costs.

17 October:

  • ASSE II - A Notorious Nuclear Repository in Germany
  • Depleted Uranium (DU) in Weapons - Action group against Radioactive Warfare, Sweden
  • Radioactive Emissions into Air from Nuclear Reactors - Dr. Ian Fairlie, UK
  • Medical Effects of Radiation - Ulla Slama, Physician, Finland
  • Male Supremacy in the Nuclear Industry - Ewa Larsson, Green Women, Sweden
  • Uranium: not only mining - Professor Gordon Edwards, Canada
  • Workshop 1: International cooperation in the environmental movement on radioactive waste issues.
  • Workshop 2: Uranium mining and Indigenous Peoples.
  • Workshop 3: Health effects of radiation.
  • Workshop 4: Other aspects of nuclear waste.
  • Report from the working groups, discussion and summary


18 October:

  • Swedish Final Repository for Low and Medium Level Nuclear Waste (SFR), Lars-Olof  Höglund, Nuclear Engineer, Sweden
  • Central Interim Storage Facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel (CLAB), Roland Davidsson, National Organisation of Energy Associations (SERO), Sweden
  • High Level Nuclear Waste and the European Pressurized Reactor, Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace, Finland
  • Nuclear Waste in the UK, Dr. David Lowry, UK
  • High Level Nuclear Waste & Very Deep Boreholes, Dr. Johan Swahn, The Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG), Sweden
  • High Level Nuclear Waste & The Dry Rock Deposit Method, Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner, Sweden
  • Nuclear Waste in Russia - Andrey Ozharovskiy, Ecodefence, Moscow
  • Problems and Financing of Nuclear Waste in Japan, Dr. Göran Bryntse, Sweden
  • Nuclear Future - Ulla Klötzer, Finland
  • Press conference / coffee and tea
  • Panel discussion

Please, register at: 
The registration deadline is 6 October 2009

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Spain: Zapatero’s compromise.
As mentioned in issue 690 of the Nuclear Monitor, Spain's Socialist government, had to take a decision before July 5, on the future of Santa María de Garona, the countries oldest nuclear plant, which license expires in 2011. Spain’s Nuclear Safety Board (CSN) recommended a new 10-year license. Prime Minister Zapatero, promised in his election campaign to start a phase-out of nuclear energy. So he had to take a clear stand. It became more and more clear that he had not the guts to close the 38-year old plant, which provides 1.3 percent of Spain’s electricity, and was looking for a compromise. He decided to grant Garona a new license, but not for a 10 year period, but only for two years, so until 2013. Catch is that 2013 is after the next general elections. Noo one is pleased with this decision. The conservative Popular Party said it would overturn the government's decision if it wins the 2012 general elections. Environmental organizations and parties to the left – vital to Zapatero's governing coalition in Parliament – attacked the decision to postpone the closure of Garona and questioned the prime minister's credibility and integrity.

Christian Science Monitor, 5 July 2009

IAEA: Board Formally Appoints Yukiya Amano as Director General.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors officially appointed Ambassador Mr. Yukiya Amano of Japan as the next Director General. Amano addressed the Board of Governors on July 3, following his successful bid to become the IAEA´s next Director General later this year. "I will dedicate my efforts to the acceleration and enlargement of the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world," he said.

The IAEA Director General is appointed by the Board of Governors with the approval of the General Conference for a term of four years. The General Conference meets in Vienna starting 14 September 2009. Ambassador Amano´s term as Director General would begin 1 December 2009.

Ambassador Amano, 62, is the Permanent Representative and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to International Organizations in Vienna, and Governor on the IAEA Board of Governors. Amano is seen as the choice of the western industrialized countries. According to the IAEA he has "extensive experience in disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear energy policy and has been involved in the negotiation of major international instruments." He has held senior positions in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, notably as Director of the Science Division, Director of the Nuclear Energy Division and Deputy Director General for Arms Control and Scientific Affairs.

IAEA Staff Report, 3 July 2009

USA: no domestic commercial reprocessing; Fatal blow to GNEP?
In a notice published in the Federal Register, the Department of Energy (DoE) said that it had decided to cancel the GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. Its decision follows a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing. Domestically, the GNEP program would promote technologies that support “economic, sustained production of nuclear-generated electricity, while reducing the impacts associated with used nuclear fuel disposal and reducing proliferation risks”. As yet, DoE has no specific proposed actions for the international component of the GNEP program. Rather, the USA, through the GNEP program, is considering various initiatives to work cooperatively with other countries. So far, 25 countries have joined the GNEP partnership.

Although the future of GNEP looks uncertain, with its budget having been cut to zero, the DoE will continue to study proliferation-resistant fuel cycles and waste management strategies. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 provides $145 million (105 million Euro) for such research and development (R&D). As described in the President Obama's 2010 budget request, the DoE's fuel cycle R&D's focus is on "long-term, science-based R&D of technologies with the potential to produce beneficial changes to the manner in which the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste is managed." One outlet for this money is likely to be the Generation IV International Forum, which includes a research program on fast-breeder reactors, which in turn require reprocessing plants.

World Nuclear News, 29 June 2009 / Nuclear engineering International, 1 July 2009

Greenland: continuation of the zero-tolerance policy towards uranium extraction. 
The government of Greenland has stated that the country’s stance on uranium mining remains clear and unchanged. Following a request from opposition party Atassut, Premier Kuupik Kleist ruled out opening up the possibility of broadening the policy towards the extraction of uranium as a by-product. The government pointed out that whilst it acknowledged the natural presence of uranium in Greenland, the 30-year-old policy of banning mineral extraction from areas with a high level of uranium content would continue to be disallowed. The issue emerged with the recent rejection of a mining proposal for Kvane Mountain, where the uranium content is so high that it is believed to be a potential risk to the residents of the nearby town of Narsaq, western Greenland. However, despite the zero-tolerance policy, areas where mining would involve extraction of uranium as a by-product within certain defined limitations would be allowed, according to Premier Kuupik Kleist.

Sermitsiaq, 24 June  2009

Sweden: Ringhals under close scrutiny.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has placed the Ringhals nuclear plant, in the southwest of Sweden, under special supervision after a series (some sources say 60) of incidents, which could endanger the security at the nuclear plant. According to reports, the first incident occurred late in 2008 and involved the failure of an automatic safety system to switch on. The second, at the start of 2009, involved faulty control rods that are designed to regulate nuclear activity. The nuclear watchdog also cited weaknesses in how officials at the nuclear plant (operated by Vattenfall) carried out routines and how instructions were adhered to.

Ringhals' four reactors produce up to one-fifth of Sweden's electricity. It is not the first time that the SSM has placed a Swedish plant under special supervision. In July 2006, officials put the Forsmark nuclear plant under supervision after the shutdown of one of its reactors.

Deutsche Welle, 9 July 2009  /, 9 July 2009

NSG Fail to Adopt Standards for Technology Trade.
The 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group failed in its June meeting to adopt stricter rules governing the trade of technologies that can support nuclear-weapon development. According to Arms Control Today, NSG-member states had sought to establish specific standards for potential purchasers of equipment or technology that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess spent reactor fuel. Standards proposed by the U.S. and Canada would address whether a potential state recipient of sensitive nuclear equipment has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and whether it has accepted the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, according to sources familiar with the terms. The Additional Protocol gives U.N. inspectors access to more information about a signatory state's nuclear facilities and enables them to conduct snap inspections of the sites.

But concerns about the proposed criteria have been raised by other NSG members, including Turkey, Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, sources indicated. The proposed standards also include "subjective" criteria, including whether the sale could harm regional stability. Turkey has expressed concern that its nuclear purchases might be restricted if were deemed under the rules to be part of the volatile Middle East.

Arms Control Today, July/August 2009

Sellafield (U.K.): 50 year leak stopped.
For about 50 years radioactive liquid has been leaking from a waste tank at Sellafield – but in June the operators, Nuclear Management Partners, said they had finally managed to solve the problem.

The leak was from one of four huge effluent tanks which held the waste before it was discharged into the Irish Sea. The leak from a crack in the concrete wall was first noticed in the 1970s and has contaminated not only a large area of ground but has resulted in contamination of the Sellafield beach. NMP said they had managed to empty 95 per cent of the radioactive sludge from the tank and it will now be treated as intermediate level waste. A spokesman said the tank had been a known environmental risk and its emptying was a great achievement.

N-Base Briefing 618, 24 June 2009

France imports power.
France has been forced to import electricity from the UK this summer because of problems with its nuclear reactors. Fourteen of France's reactors use river water for cooling, rather than seawater, and there are regulatory limited on the temperature of water than can be discharged back into rivers.

Also the recent summer heat wave increased the river water temperature meaning it could not reduce the heat of reactor casings. The problems forced state-owned EDF to shutdown reactors. The company has encountered similar problems in the past.

Times (UK), 7 July 2009

USEC: “no loan guarantee; no enrichment plant”.
Usec could halt construction of its American Centrifuge Plant if the US Department of Energy (DOE) doesn’t give it a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee by early August. In a statement Philip Sewell, vice president of American Centrifuge and Russian HEU said a DoE decision is expected by early August. “As we have stated in the past, a DOE loan guarantee is our path forward for financing the American Centrifuge Plant. Therefore, we are making contingency plans for project demobilization should we not receive a conditional commitment or should a decision on a conditional commitment be further delayed, Sewell said. Demobilization, which would involve the partial or full halt of ACP activities and plant construction, could begin in August. So far Usec has invested $1.5 billion in the enrichment plant under construction in Piketon, Ohio. In February, due to the lack of certainty on DoE funding the company initiated cash conservation measures and delayed the ramp-up in hiring. It says it needs a loan guarantee to secure a substantial portion of the remaining financing needed to complete the project.

Nuclear Engineering International, 7 July 2009

Italian Senate passed pro-nuclear law.
On July 9, after four readings in the upper house since November last year, the Italian Senate passed a bill which will pave the way for the return of nuclear power. The package, which also greenlights class action suits and the privatisation of state railways, was passed with an almost unanimous vote after the opposition Democratic Party and Italy of Values left the Senate in the hope that the legal minimum of votes required would not be reached. Under the new law, the government will have six months to choose sites for new nuclear energy plants, define the criteria for the storage of radioactive waste and work out compensatory measures for people who will be affected by the plants. A nuclear security agency will also be set up, although the actual building of the plants is expected to take years. Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said earlier this year that Italy would begin to build its first new generation nuclear power plant by 2013 and start producing energy by 2018. Italy abandoned nuclear energy after a 1987 referendum, one year after the Chernobyl accident.

Opposition politicians meanwhile slammed the new law. Roberto Della Seta, environmental pointman for the Democratic Party, said the cost of building four nuclear plants would be ''20-25 billion euros'', while they would contribute less than 5% to the country's energy consumption. ''This law ignores all the real problems that stand in the way of Italy having a renewable and efficient energy policy, such as closing the gap with other major European countries on renewable sources and promoting research into new technology,'' he said.

ANSA, 9 July 2009

EU ministers rubber stamp weak nuclear safety rules.
On June 25, environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg rubber-stamped a Euratom Directive on Nuclear Safety. The law was meant to improve nuclear safety in Europe by setting EU-wide standards. However, the directive mainly refers to weak principles from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which all EU countries are already bound to as signatories of the Convention on Nuclear Safety. Attempts to improve the independence of nuclear regulators have also been watered down. There is no provision in the directive to guarantee the accountability of nuclear regulators.

"There is nothing new in this law to improve nuclear safety in Europe. We are still faced with a nuclear industry that sees safety as an obstacle, rather than a paramount necessity," said Jan Haverkamp, EU nuclear energy expert for Greenpeace. Greenpeace calls on the EU to base its safety rules on the principles of best available technology and best regulatory practice.

Greenpeace Press release, 25 June 2009

Belgium bans investments in depleted uranium weapons.
On July 2, the Belgian Parliament unanimously approved a law forbidding investments in depleted uranium weapons. Belgium is now the first country to prevent the flow of money to producers of uranium weapons. This law complements the country's ban on their manufacture, testing, use, sale and stockpiling which came into force on June 21st last. The use of depleted uranium armour piercing munitions during combat causes the release of chemically toxic and radioactive particles which represent a long term hazard for the environment as well as for human health.

Senator Philippe Mahoux submitted the resolution in the Belgian Senate, where it was unanimously approved on the 2nd of April 2009. Approval in the Chamber of Representatives followed on the 2nd of July. The law forbids banks and investment funds operating on the Belgian market from offering credit to producers of armor and munitions that contain depleted uranium. The purchase of shares and bonds issued by these companies is also prohibited. This law implicates that financial institutions in Belgium must bring their investments in large weapon producers such as Alliant Techsystems (US), BAE Systems (UK) and General Dynamics (US) to an end. Only investments made via index funds, and the financing of projects of these companies that are clearly unrelated to cluster munitions will be allowed. The law also obliges the government to draw up a "black list" of uranium weapon producers.

Press Release, 3 July 2009, Belgian Coalition 'Stop Uranium Weapons!'

India: National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM) launched.
More than one hundred organizations, peoples’ movements and concerned citizens from across the country came together for a National Convention on “The Politics of Nuclear Energy and Resistance” on June 4-6, 2009 at Kanyakumari. They discussed all the different aspects of nuclear power generation and weapons production, the various stages of nuclearization from Uranium mining till waste management, and the commissions and the omissions of the government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy during the three-day-long convention.

Most importantly, nuclearism is a political ideology that cannot stomach any transparency, accountability or popular participation. It snubs dissent, denounces opponents and creates a political climate of fear and retribution. With the India-US nuclear deal, and the deals with Russia and France and likely private participation in nuclear energy generation, the situation is going to get out of hand in our country. The combination of profiteering companies, secretive state apparatuses and repressive nuclear department will be ruthless and this nexus of capitalism, statism and nuclearism does not augur well for the country. These forces gaining an upper hand in our national polity will mean a death knell for the country’s democracy, openness, and prospects for sustainable development.

In order to mobilize the Indian citizens against this growing nucolonization, to resist the nuclearization of the country, and to protect our people from nuclear threats and the environment from nuclear waste and radiation, an umbrella organization (tentatively named as the National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements) has been founded with eight committees on Documentation, Economic Analysis, Legal, Mass Media, International Liaison, Translation, Health, and Direct Action.

Contact for more info: Dr. S. P. Udayakumar,

NAAM Press release, 7 June 2009

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Indonesia: Tender postponed indefinitely.
Indonesian State Minister of Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman announced late last month (May) that the tendering process for new nuclear power plants, expected to be completed by the end of the year, have been postponed indefinitely. The process has lacked political support and with presidential elections due in July, the government has pulled the plug. Kusmayanto said, ‘It's impossible to decide now. For the fastest, it will possibly take at last six more years.’ This destroys plans to have a nuclear power plant operating in the 2016-2019 timeframe established by Indonesian Law No. 17/2007.

Nuclear Reaction, 18 June 2009

Sweden: smiling sun banned from Parliament.
Seven antinuclear activists who went to the Swedish Parliament to listen to the energy debate on June 16, were forced to leave the public gallery and were thereafter taken into inquiry by the police. This has never happened before. The reason was that five of them where wearing t-shirts with the smiling sun, the well known antinuclear symbol. Most of them activists were members of the Swedish antinuclear movement and some belong to the Swedish Green woman.

Email: Eia Liljegren-Palmær, 19 June 2009

U.K.: Serious accident averted at Sizewell.
A serious accident at the Sizewell A Magnox reactor was only averted because a worker cleaning clothes in a laundry noticed cooling water leaking from a spent fuel storage pond. In January 2007 40,000 gallons of radioactive water (1 gallon (UK) is about 4.54609 liter)  leaked from a 15ft (4.5 meter) split in a pipe in the cooling pond, containing 5,000 spent fuel rods and alarms failed to warn staff or were ignored. If the pond had emptied of water and exposed the highly-radioactive rods would have caught fire with an airborne release of radioactivity. Thanks to the worker in the laundry staff were able to contain the leak - discharging the radioactive waster into the sea - and re-fill the pond.

A new report on the accident has now been published. It is written by nuclear consultant Dr John Large, commissioned by the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign and based on Nuclear Installation Inspectorate reports released under Freedom of Information. The NII report highlighted a number of serious concerns surrounding the accident. Not only did the pond alarms fail, but had it worked it would have triggered another alarm that had already been on for two days but ignored by staff. There was also poorly designed and poorly installed instrumentation and control equipment. The NII report also suggests that it chose not to prosecute the operators because of staff shortages.

N-base briefing 618, 17 june 2009

Spain: renewal of operation license Garona?
On June 8, the five-member board of Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) unanimously agreed to recommend that the Garona nuclear plant in northern Spain should get a new 10-year operating licence if it upgrades its safety equipment. The 38-year-old nuclear plant's licence expires on July 5. Nuclear Safety Council chairwoman Carmen Martinez Ten said the decision was taken on technical and security grounds and not for reasons of "energy policy, economics or another nature".

The Spanish government will have to take a clear stand for or against nuclear power before July 5, when it decides whether to renew the operating licence Garona, the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose socialist government has backed the developmentof  renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, has said he wants to phase out nuclear energy in the country when the life span of its six nuclear plants expires. A decision to prolong the life of the Garona plant would be a major u-turn for Zapatero, who pledged to gradually phase out nuclear power during general elections in 2004 and 2008. However, the prime minister said. "The decision regarding Garona will be coherent with the commitments in our election programme as long as the supply of power is guaranteed," This statement was seen by some observers as a sign that the government was leaning towards renewing, maybe for a short period. Later in June, CSN said the government asked their opinion about renewing the permit for two, four or six years, rather than the 10 years. The 500 megawatt Garona plant provided just 1.3 percent of Spain's electricity last year and grid operators say its closure would pose no supply problems.

The Spanish branch of Greenpeace has urged the government not to renew the licence of the plant, arguing it is unsafe. It has called it the "plant of 1,000 fissures". The two utilities running the plant, Iberdrola and Endesa, estimate it will cost 50 million euros (US$70 million) to carry out the upgrades to the plants safety equipment recommended by the CSN.

Spain, along with Denmark and Germany, is among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union and the country is one of the largest world producers of solar power.

AFP, 11 June 2009 / Reuters, 19 June 2009

Blows for IAEA Fuel Bank proposal. Developing countries blocked plans by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for nuclear fuel banks that aim to keep countries from acquiring sensitive nuclear technology by offering them alternatives. The Vienna-based agency and Western countries had hoped the IAEA's governing board would give the green light for fleshing out plans to sway countries to buy rather than make nuclear fuel, by offering an insurance in case their supply is cut off for political reasons. But a June 18, joint statement by the Group of 77 (a coalition of developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement) said that "none of the proposals provide a proper assurance of supply of nuclear fuel." The plans "should not be designed in a way that discourages states from developing or expanding their capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle". The 35 members of the board agreed only that the nuclear agency "may continue its consultations and discussions" to further work on the fuel bank proposals, according to diplomats at the meeting.

The idea of the IAEA Fuel Bank was to keep countries from acquiring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used not only for energy purposes, but also for making nuclear bomb material. However, developing countries fear that such plans would pressure them to give up their right to peacefully using nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, in May the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen, concluded that the British, German and Dutch (the countries that form the Urenco enrichment consortium) initiative for assured supply for low enriched nuclear fuel failed. In May he wrote to Dutch Parliament that “many countries see this condition (giving up enrichment and reprocessing) as discriminating and an unacceptable violation of their rights under the non-proliferation treaty”.

Another blow for the concept of Multilateral Approaches, which is seen by many proponents of nuclear power as one of the main ways to counter proliferation worries.

Earthtimes, 18 June 2209 / Laka Foundation, 18 may 2009

Discussion on new-build in Germany heats up. Germany's economy minister ruled out building new nuclear power stations but said the life of some reactors might be extended and the development of alternative technologies stepped up. "We need limited extensions until we are able to work with sensible alternative technologies in an economical and environmentally friendly manner," Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview, published on June 19.. "That includes the possibility of equipping existing nuclear power stations with state-of-the-art technology in order to make them even safer and more efficient," the conservative minister said. "But I see no need to build new nuclear reactors." General elections are due in September. On September 5, a nationwide demonstration will take place in Berlin.

Nuclear Reaction, 22 June 2009

Japan: MOX target delayed. Japanese plans for 16-18 reactors to be using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel by 2010 have been put back by five years, the country's Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) has announced. Up until 1998, Japan sent the bulk of its used fuel to plants in France and the UK for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. However, since 1999 it has been storing used fuel in anticipation of full-scale operation of its own reprocessing and MOX fabrication facilities. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd's (JNFL's) reprocessing plant under construction at Rokkasho-mura is scheduled for completion in August 2009, but earlier this year the company put back the completion date for its planned J-MOX fabrication facility from August 2012 to August 2015. Construction work on the fabrication facility is scheduled to begin in November 2009. Four shipments of reactor-grade plutonium recovered from used fuel have been sent back to Japan from European reprocessing plants since 1992. The most recent arrived in Japan from France in May 2009.

World Nuclear News, 12 June 2009

Australia: union action on radioactive waste. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has welcomed the support of Australia’s peak trade union body ACTU in pushing for an end to any federal government move to impose a radioactive waste dump on the Northern Territory and developing a credible and responsible approach to radioactive waste management in Australia. On June 4, the ACTU Congress in Brisbane passed a resolution critical of the government’s delay in delivering on a 2007 election commitment on radioactive waste management and called for an independent and public inquiry into the best options for dealing with radioactive waste.

“The ACTU’s active support in this issue is powerful and very welcome,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. “The federal government was elected on a promise to scrap the heavy handed waste dump laws and make radioactive waste policy responsible and transparent.  It has failed to deliver on this promise and this resolution is an important reminder to the government and to Resources Minister Ferguson that the community expects better.”

The ACTU now joins a broad range of environment and public health groups, Indigenous organisations and state, territory and local governments concerned by the federal government’s lack of responsible and inclusive action on this issue.

ACF Press release, 5 June 2009

U.S.: doubts about decommissioning funds. Two days after Associated Press reported that operators of nearly half of the US' 104 nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough funds to cover projected decommissioning costs, the NRC has contacted owners of 18 nuclear power plants asking them to explain how the economic downturn has affected funds they must set aside to cover future decommissioning costs. The AP report said the shortfalls have been caused by a combination of falling investments and rising decommissioning costs. Plant operators are required to establish funding during a reactor's operating life to ensure the reactor site will be properly cleaned up once the plant is permanently closed, the NRC said, adding that its review of the latest reports from reactor operators "suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans." Tim McGinty, director of policy and rulemaking in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation said: "This is not a current safety issue, but the plants do have to prove to us they're setting aside money appropriately."

Platts, 19 June 2009

Swedish nuclear industry wants reactor waste facility at Forsmark

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Miles Goldstick

On 3 June 2009 the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co (SKB) announced it’s decision to apply to build a reactor-waste storage facility on the coast of the Baltic Sea at Forsmark, in the municipality of Östhammar, about 120 km north of Stockholm. The method, called KBS3, involves placement of the waste in copper canisters surrounded by clay and put in tunnels 500 meters underground in bedrock.

The announcement was made at a highly orchestrated press conference with the heads of the two competing municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar obediently taking part. The decision came despite many fundamental issues remaining to be determined. Environmental groups have been quick to point out that a location can not be chosen before a method is approved and that in any case an inland location is preferred from the perspective of risking further radioactive pollution of the Baltic Sea. Further, it is uncertain if the bedrock is suitable from the perspective of geological stability and groundwater flow, and if the local conditions will result in copper corroding at an unacceptable rate. None-the-less, SKB has reason to be so bold as they have won almost unanimous support in all quarters other than from environmental groups.

The next step is for SKB to present a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA) for review by all stakeholders, which is currently planned for mid-2010. SKB’s schedule it to submit the final EIA to the Environmental Court during 2010. That review is expected to take about a year. Once the Environmental Court makes its decision, the government must then give its position, which can be to either agree or disagree partly or completely. Finally, the municipality of Östhammar must also agree or disagree partly or completely. In other words, SKB has a long way to go, and several bridges to cross that could result in long delays, before their method and location gets final approval.

For more information see the following websites:,,,,

Source: Miles Goldstick
Contact: FMKK, Tegelviksgatan 40, 116 41 Stockholm. Sweden.
Tel: +46 8 - 84 14 90