The Swedish government's decision to say yes to repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark is both regrettable and irresponsible. This is the opinion of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG). The government has made its decision without the nuclear industry having shown that the copper canisters that are to guarantee safety for at least 100,000 years will work as intended.
– The government has today made a historic decision and I am afraid that they have made a historic mistake. It is directly irresponsible of the government to say yes to the repository for spent nuclear fuel. The method of disposal with copper canisters has received extensive criticism from eminent independent corrosion expertise. The nuclear waste can cause significant environmental damage in the Forsmark area ¬ perhaps already after a few hundred years, says Johanna Sandahl, chair of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
The government has chosen to say yes to the spent fuel repository, despite the fact that during the government review additional knowledge has emerged that copper does not function as canister material. The copper canisters are to guarantee safety for humans and the environment for over 100 000 years. Independent corrosion researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) have repeatedly warned that there is a risk that the canisters will break down - already after a few hundred years.
If the canisters break down and the extremely hazardous nuclear waste leaks out, it will contaminate the groundwater and the entire ecosystem. The marine environment is also affected. If this happens, a large area must be cordoned off as a zone with no access for a very long time and no one may eat or drink anything from the area.
The Government considers that it is sufficient that the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has said that the final repository can be sufficiently safe even if the copper canisters do not function as they should, thanks to the other barriers of rock and bentonite clay. The government has thus disregarded the fact that the Land and Environment Court clearly distanced itself from that view. The court held that the government must ensure that the copper canisters can really last for the long timespans involved.
Both the Swedish Council for Nuclear Waste, the government's scientific advisory board on nuclear waste issues, and the researchers from KTH have stated that more research is needed in the repository environment to ensure that the canisters will work as intended.
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and MKG believe that the government's decision both ignored the strong scientific warning signals and the need for more copper research. As science continues to work independently of political decisions, the associations believe that it is likely that the project will still be stopped in the future. The risk that the money needed to build a repository will be wasted on the wrong technology is evident.
– The government has decided to approve a repository that will not work, says Johan Swahn, director of MKG. Thus, money and time risks being wasted in the construction of a repository that must then be discarded.
Johan Swahn, Director, MKG Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review,