Decision-making process


Contrary to popular belief, the Swedes have yet to decide on a repository for our spent nuclear fuel. We are currently in the midst of a judicial process where the power industry’s nuclear waste company SKB is trying to get a license from the government to build a repository according to the KBS concept. However, the application has been fraught with problems, such as insufficient data supporting the claims made as well as an inadequate account of alternative methods. These are staggering issues, as the purpose of the entire process is to decide on the best possible solution, not to decide on the one already on the table. In fact, the only party still insisting on the viability of the KBS is SKB; the very company behind the method.

The Judicial process

The power industry’s nuclear waste company SKB is eager to start the construction of a KBS-type repository. In order to do this, SKB must first obtain a license from the Swedish government. The license application must in turn explain the proposed method in detail, as well as present scientifically sound arguments that show that the KBS method is in fact the best method available according to our present knowledge. The application also has to show that the chosen site has been chosen based on best available technology and knowledge.

In March 2011, SKB submitted an application for a repository for spent nuclear fuel at the Forsmark nuclear power plant. The application also calls for an encapsulation facility to be built at the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant. The review of the application is the task of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, the regulator, and the Environmental Court. The regulator evaluates the application in accordance with the Act on Nuclear Activities and the court according to the Environmental Code. When the application is thoroughly evaluated, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court will provide the Swedish Government with statements with their opinions, but it is the Government that takes the final decision.

The process of evaluating the application is complex and is estimated to take many years. Several other parties, such as other Governmental agencies, the nuclear communities, the academic world, and the civil society are invited into the legal process to provide the regulator and the court with feedback on the application. MKG in cooperation with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation [SSNC] is such a party. The Swedish Council for Nuclear Waste, the Government’s scientific advisory board is another.

Since the application was first submitted to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court, it has been sent back to SKB on numerous occasions with demands on further research and more thorough presentation on different subjects. SKB, on the other hand, has responded by attempting to describe most, if not all, of these demands as non-issues.

In fact, the sheer number of problems and shortcomings with the application has prompted MKG/SSNS to conclude that the application should never have been submitted in the first place.

Latest development

On January 29, 2016, the Land and Environmental Court, MMD, and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, announced that the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company’s, SKB’s, license application for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark can be seen as complete enough to review on its merits.

During 2016 and the first half of 2017 the license application was evaluated on different issues. In the autumn of 2018 the court held the its main meeting on the case.

On January 23 2018 the Land and Environmental Court stated in an opinion to the government that the license application could not be approved according to the Environmental Act until a number of issues that threatened the long-term integrity of the copper canister have been resoved. On the same date the Swedish Radiation Safety Autority SSM told the government that the license application according to the nuclear activities act could be approved as any copper problems could be solved later in the regulator's decision-making process.

It is the government that hs to take the next decision on the repository license applications, and the copper corrosion issues are in the middle of the continued process. Read more about this here.