MKG and member organisations send a statement to the government on SKB's complementary copper information

The complementary information the nuclear waste company SKB submitted to the government in April 2019 on the behaviour of the copper canister in the planned Swedish repository for spent nuclear fuel does not show that the company's license application meets the requirements for permissibility according to the Environmental Code. That is the message of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Friends of the Earth and MKG in a new statement to the government. The opinion is available as a PDF on the Swedish part of the MKG web site (link below).

On January 23, 2018, the Swedish Land and Environmental Court submitted its opinion in Case M 1333-11 to the government after the main hearing of the court on the licensing of the planned repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark. On April 4, 2019, the nuclear industry's waste management company, SKB, submitted complementary documentation to the government that primarily concerned the copper canister and its suitability as a protective barrier in the intended disposal method.

A number of actors have now submitted opinions on SKB's complementary information. Among others, the Swedish Council on Nuclear Waste and a group of researchers from he Royal University of Technology (KTH) have submitted critical statements to the Government, pointing out that important issues regarding the copper material remain unresolved. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has submitted an opinion stating that the Authority's "assessment is that SKB has well supported and strengthened the conclusions in its previous documentation and also provided new information that gives a deeper understanding of different corrosion processes and their importance in a final repository system." [MKG:s translation]

However, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Friends of the Earth and MKG state in their opinion that SKB's supplement does not show that the planned nuclear fuel repository in the long term meets the requirements of the Environmental Code. The organisations therefore foremost propose that the government denies the license application, secondly, that the government rejects the application for permission; and thirdly, that the government refers the application back to the Land and Environment Court for resumed deliberation of the issue of admissibility.

The organisations write in their statement:

“Permission cannot be given to a nuclear fuel repository whose main safety barrier is a canister with copper as the canister material. The best thing to do now for the government is either to deny the application or reject the application because there is not an adequate material basis for a decision. The organisations believe that the alternative to refer the application back to the Land and Environmental Court for a continued and unconditional investigation into the possibility that the nuclear fuel repository in the long term meets the requirements of the Environmental Code, despite the uncertainties that remain as about the canister's protective ability, will only show that copper will not work as a capsule material. Such a process would only take unnecessary time and consume unnecessary resources. Instead, work should be started as soon as possible to find a method for safe long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel. Among other things, the possibilities for using the deep borehole method should be investigated."

In their opinion, the organisations state to the government that a large number of the capsules can be broken already within a few hundreds of years if copper is used as a capsule material. The area around Forsmark can thus become a contaminated zone in a thousand years. Therefore, the application for the nuclear fuel repository cannot be approved. 

The organisations also explain that the nuclear waste company SKB's research on copper corrosion has not been aimed at understanding the problems that exist. The company has no interest in discovering that the copper canisters do not work. The organisations argue for the case that copper reacts with water in an oxygen-free environment and show that copper does not function as a capsule material.

The organisations are very critical to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority's work on reviewing the final repository project. The associations conclude by describing requirements for investigations on copper corrosion if referral is made back to the Land and Environmental Court.

The statement can be found as a PDF on MKG:s Swedish web page.

See also the following news articles on MKG:s English pages:

SKB sends complementary information on copper corrosion to the government 190404 >>

The government gives SKB the opportunity to comment on the opinions from the court and regulator 180601 >>

The Swedish Environmental Court’s no to the final repository for spent nuclear fuel – a victory for the environmental movement and the science 180123 >>