The authorities review – the Government decides
SKB’s applications for permits to build the Spent Fuel Repository at Forsmark and an encapsulation plant at Oskarshamn have been submitted to the authorities. The review will take several years. The final decision will be made by the Government, but not before the municipalities concerned have said yes or no.
The applications are being reviewed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm. The Radiation Safety Authority is considering questions of nuclear safety and radiation protection at the facilities as laid down in the Nuclear Activities Act. The review undertaken by the Land and Environment Court is based on the Environmental Code.
SKB’s applications were submitted to the authorities on 16 March 2011. The review itself started shortly afterwards. The material is being reviewed not only by the authorities’ own experts but will also be referred for consideration to a large number of other organisations: environmental organisations, the municipalities and county administrative boards concerned, higher education institutions and other public agencies are among those that can express their opinions.
The state also requested an independent international review of the long-term safety of the Spent Fuel Repository after it has been sealed. This was conducted by an expert group appointed by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). This group presented its final report in June 2012 and it gives a positive appraisal of this part of the application.
Eventually a main hearing will be held at the Land and Environment Court. The court will then recommend the Government to either grant or reject the applications. At this point the Government will also consult the municipalities that are entitled to veto the projects: Östhammar when it comes to the Spent Fuel Repository and Oskarshamn for the encapsulation plant.
When the Government has reached its decision, the applications will again be referred to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court, which will stipulate the terms and conditions for the facilities. It will then also be up to the municipalities to decide on planning permission under the Planning and Building Act. In its current timetable SKB plans to start construction of the Spent Fuel Repository and the encapsulation plant some time early in the 2020s and they will take about ten years to complete.
Once permits have been granted, this does not mean that the process is finished. There are a large number of controls that have to be passed before nuclear technology plants can be built. For instance additional permits are required from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority before building can start, trial operations can begin, for routine operation and finally for phasing facilities out and sealing them. At each of these stages the preliminary safety analysis contained in SKB’s applications have to be expanded and become increasingly detailed.