29 June 2016 |

Regulator recommends approval of final repository plan — despite unresolved safety issues

The Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, has recommended that the Swedish government give the go-ahead to the nuclear power industry’s plans for a final repository for nuclear fuel waste at Forsmark, north of Stockholm. The recommendation, announced on June 29, came amidst major concerns as to the ability of the envisaged copper canisters to contain the waste. SSM’s comments to the Environmental Court express faith that these issues can be resolved after the plan has been approved. SNF and MKG are critical. Only a month ago, in solicited comments to the Environmental Court, the two organizations warned of a serious risk that radioactive substances may begin to leak from the repository, as conceived, within the next millennium. That risk, SNF/MKG argue, is reason enough to withhold approval of the plan. The copper canisters need to hold tight for hundreds of millennia. It is entirely unacceptable for the regulator not to require the applicant to resolve this critical issue in the course of the ongoing EIA process.

On June 29, 2016, the Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, submitted comments to the Environmental Court in Nacka District Court, as part of the vetting process regarding a repository for final storage of nuclear fuel waste at Forsmark. Apart from some preliminary reports published in 2015, this is the first formal comment on the subject that SSM has made public.

SSM sees no hindrance to overall approval of the industry’s plans for the final repository. At the same time, the Authority stresses that there will be an extended period of further developmental work and continued vetting after the go-ahead, and that any outstanding issues can be resolved then. As to the integrity of the copper canisters, the comments state:

“The step-by-step examination process affords opportunities to take into account and apply new scientific findings and more in-depth knowledge of the KBS-3 concept. Thus, SSM has identified some needs of further developmental work that SKB will have to report to the Authority in the course of its further examination: issues relating to the durability of the technical barriers, in particular the issues of gradual creep deformation of the copper canister and certain corrosive processes that can affect the copper shell. The Authority does not, however, consider the issues to be of such gravity as to prevent evaluation of the application and the conclusions that SKB presents concerning the environmental impact of the repository, and thus an assessment as to whether the criteria for long-term radiological safety set out by the Authority have been fulfilled.”

SNF and MKG submitted their comments to theEnvironmental Court jointly on May 31. The organizations’ assessment is that the application in its present state cannot be approved. There is a serious risk that radioactive substances will begin to leak from the repository, as conceived, within the next millennium. Nuclear fuel waste is the most hazardous waste from nuclear energy production and needs to be isolated from humanity and the natural environment for hundreds of thousands of years.

SNF/MKG are strongly critical of SSM’s attempt to postpone the evaluation of whether or not the copper canister will endure until after the government has approved the industry’s application. Such an action removes this critically important issue from the democratic process that both the EIA provisions of the Environmental Code and mandated assessment by a democratically elected government ensure.

According to the Court’s timetable for the process, a period of dialogue between parties to the EIA assessment will now ensue. The main proceedings, the next step in the process, will most probably be delayed and commence in 2017.

 

About the vetting process
The industry’s application for management and storage of nuclear fuel waste is being assessed concurrently by the Environmental Court at Nacka District Court and the Radiation Safety Authority, SSM. The Court examines the application in relation to the Environmental Code; the Authority examines it in relation to the Act on Nuclear Activities. Comment from SSM is also solicited by the Court as input into the EIA process mandated by the Environmental Code. It is in this latter context that SSM submitted the comment of May 29, 2016, to the Court. Other authorities, concerned parties and members of the general public submitted their comment this past Spring. For further information, see www.mkg.se.


The Swedish authority's consultation response, 160629 >> (in english)

Information in english on the authority's webpage >>

Information in swedish on the authority's webpage >>

SNF/MKG: "Reject the application! Legal brief from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and MKG to the Environmental Court and SSM, 160531 >>

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