In the spring of 2011 SKB submitted its applications for permits to build a Spent Fuel Repository at Forsmark and an encapsulation facility at Oskarshamn. These applications show that it is possible to construct a final repository for spent nuclear fuel that complies with official requirements for 100,000 years.
The applications cover the entire system that will enable the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. They deal with the facility at which the spent nuclear fuel will be encapsulated before final disposal, the encapsulation plant, and the final repository in which it will be placed, the Spent Fuel Repository.
Everything is described in the material submitted to the authorities for their review. This comprises over 10,000 pages and is based on more than 30 years of research and development. The aim is to demonstrate that SKB can meet the legal requirements for the new facilities that are to be constructed. It must be possible to operate them safely and for many years to come.
Long term safety
An important part of the application comprises the analysis of long term safety after the Spent Fuel Repository has been sealed. This analysis has been made with the help of tried and tested methodology and covers a period of up to one million years. The stipulated requirement is that during this long period of time the annual dose from the Spent Fuel Repository for human beings will not exceed around one per cent of the natural background radiation.
The safety analysis comprises both evaluation of a “normal” development and the most extreme impact that the barriers (bedrock, Bentonite clay and copper canisters) can reasonably be exposed to in the future. It describes, for instance, the consequences of a canister being drilled into by mistake or if the barriers cease to function at an early stage. There are also analyses of how future ice ages could affect the repository and what would happen if a major earthquake occurred.
Environmental Impact Statement
Another important appendix to the application is a description of the environmental impact. In it SKB accounts for what impact its plans could have on human beings and the environment during construction and operation. The results show that the consequences for the local population and for the natural and cultural environment are no greater than for any other major mining or infrastructure project. Any consequences that may, nevertheless, arise, primarily for the natural environment, can be managed and limited with the help of various measures.
The environmental impact statement also includes an account of the different alternatives, among them alternative sites for the facilities. In addition SKB describes a zero alternative, in other words what will happen if no nuclear fuel repository is constructed at all.