Our generation must take care of the Swedish nuclear waste
SKB, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, is engaged in one of Sweden’s largest environmental protection projects. Our task is to deal with all the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants in Sweden in a safe way.
Irrespective of the question of the future of nuclear power, today there is nuclear waste that has to be dealt with in the short and long term to protect mankind and the environment. That is SKB’s task.
Since the middle of 1960s we have been using electricity generated by nuclear power in Sweden. We who have benefited from this electricity also have a responsibility to future generations to deal with the waste it has given rise to. We must have a solution that can function without monitoring and control and will also be safe in the very distant future.
SKB is owned by the nuclear power companies. They have a statutory duty to deal with the disposal of Swedish nuclear waste and to pay for these operations.
Today we have a system for dealing with nuclear waste that works. Since the mid-1980s both the Final Repository for Short-Lived Radioactive Waste (SFR) and Central Interim Storage Facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel (Clab) have been in operation. Safe transport of radioactive waste from the nuclear power plants takes place using our ship the M/S Sigrid.
Forty years of research
Since the 1970s SKB has been developing a method to enable the handling and management of spent nuclear fuel safely for long periods of time. We have undertaken research and development and have conducted studies and investigations. A number of technical breakthroughs have been achieved during this time. The method we have selected means that the fuel is placed in copper canisters surrounded by bentonite clay about 500 metres underground in Swedish bedrock.
We are now preparing for the components of this system that will deal with the encapsulation and final deposition of the spent nuclear fuel. This is the most difficult type of waste to deal with and it has to be isolated for at least 100,000 years.
Application for permits
In the beginning of the 1990s we also began to search for suitable sites. Finally only two good alternatives remained, Forsmark and Oskarshamn. In June 2009 we selected Forsmark. The reason was that our investigations showed that this was where the rock was most suitable for the purpose.
In 2011 SKB applied to the Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court for permits to build the Spent Fuel Repository at Forsmark. Now the application is with the government for continued handling. We hope that this facility will be ready in the early 2030s to receive the first deliveries of spent nuclear fuel for final disposal.
SKB has also applied for permits to construct an encapsulation plant at Oskarshamn next to the Clab interim storage facility. This plant is where the spent nuclear fuel will be sealed into canisters before it is transported to the Spent Fuel Repository at Forsmark. The encapsulation plant should be ready in the same year as the Spent Fuel Repository.