The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and others requests a judicial review of the government’s nuclear fuel repository decision

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the Swedish Friends of the Earth, Nature and Youth Sweden, the Uppsala County chapter and the Östhammar local chapter of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear waste Review, MKG, have jointly requested a judicial review of the Swedish government's decision to approve the repository for spent nuclear fuel to the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court. The application concerns the Government's decision of 27 January 2022 both in accordance with the Environmental Code and the Nuclear Activities Act. The organisations consider that the decisions contravene the legal rules of the Environmental Code and are based on incorrect assessments. They assert that the remaining uncertainties regarding long-term radiation safety are far too great.

On 27 January 2002, the Minister of Climate and Environment Annika Strandhäll (SocDem) approved the nuclear waste company SKB's application from 2011 to build a repository for spent nuclear fuel at the Forsmark nuclear power plant and an encapsulation plant, Clink, joined to the existing centralised interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, Clab, at the Oskarshamn's nuclear power plant. The government allowed admissibility according to the Environmental Code and a license under the Nuclear Activities Act.

On 27 April, the environmental organisations the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the Swedish Friends of the Earth, Nature and Youth Sweden, the Uppsala County chapter and the Östhammar local chapter of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear waste Review, MKG, submitted a joint application for judicial review to the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court and primarily demand to have the decisions and secondarily demand to have the decisions revoked and referred back to the government. 48 appendices are attached to the application. The organisations summarise as follows:

“In summary, the organisations believe that the government's two decisions should be reviewed and overturned by the Supreme Administrative Court, as the decisions contravene the legal rules of the Environmental Code and are based on incorrect factual assessments. In addition, procedural errors have occurred as the Natura 2000 review has been incomplete.

The Government's admissibility decision is not compatible with the Environmental Code because the remaining uncertainties are too great regarding the repository’s ability to keep people and the environment safe from dangerous radiation doses during the very long period of time in question. The applicant has not been able to show that the activity applied for can meet the requirements that follow from the general rules of consideration compared with the risk criterion in section 5 of [the regulator] SSM's regulations in SSMFS 2008:37. The application with supplements does not reach the evidentiary requirements seen together with the knowledge requirement and the precautionary principle in the second chapter of the Environmental Code. An important reason is the scientific criticism from researchers from Department of Surface and Corrosion Science at KTH and the uncertainty about the durability of the copper material during the long period in question, as the spent nuclear fuel is to be stored in canister with walls of only 5 cm thick copper.

The organisations also state shortcomings in the environmental impact statement, site selection and significant impact on nearby Natura 2000 sites. All in all, the shortcomings in terms of the Environmental Code also means that the the decisions are also not compatible with the Nuclear Activities Act. "

During the government review, the organisations have, with the support of opinions from independent scientific expertise sent to the government, emphasized that no new information has been added that meets the requirements set by the Land and Environment Court in January 2018 in the court's opinion to the government. The information that the nuclear waste company SKB provided to the government review in the spring of 2019 was only a repetition of previous information and positions. This means that the government primarily made a political decision without regard to significant scientific shortcomings when the repository was approved. The safety of the canister should have been a priority issue for the government and there was no reason to take a fast decision.

As science continues to work independently of political decisions, it is likely that the project approved by the government will be stopped in the future. The risk that the money needed to build a truly secure repository will be wasted on the wrong technology is clear. When it turns out that the project cannot be completed, the focus must be on investigating alternative canister materials and quickly investigating the possibility for using the alternative method deep boreholes instead with disposal of the spent nuclear fuel at a depth of between 3-5 km. The method can be more environmentally safe, gives less risk of intrusion and can also be less costly than storage in mined tunnels as in the nuclear power industry's method.

The request for judicial review can be downloaded from the news article on the Swedish part of the MKG web pages.