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.