Sweden chooses first permanent nuclear waste facility

FORSMARK, SWEDEN - Sweden has announced that the world's first permanent disposal site for spent nuclear fuel will be located in Forsmark, 200 kilometres north of the country's capital, Stockholm.

After a 20-year hunt for a suitable site, involving detailed studies between 2002 and 2007, site work will start in 2013 with construction getting under way in 2015. It is expected that the facility, which will take up just 15 hectares above ground, will be operational by 2022-24.

An application to build, including a full environmental impact assessment and a safety analysis report, will be sought next year from Swedish nuclear authorities.

According to the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), Forsmark was chosen over rival site Laxemar in the municipality of Oskarshamn because it offered rock at the repository level, which is dryer and has fewer fractures. In addition, the Forsmark site requires less space than a repository in Laxemar, which means less rock will need to be excavated and subsequently refilled.

There is already a 3,160-megawatt (MW) nuclear plant owned by Vattenfall in Forsmark that produces 20-25 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually, a sixth of Sweden's electricity demand.

"The selection of a site is a milestone for the Swedish nuclear waste programme," SKB President Claes Thegerstrom said. "We see a clear advantage for Forsmark concerning long-term safety. We are now focusing our work on putting together the needed documentation to submit a licence application for constructing a safe repository for nuclear fuel in Forsmark."

The method of final disposal will involve three protective barriers. The spent nuclear fuel will first be encased in impermeable copper canisters with cast-iron inserts, which will then be sunk into crystalline basement rock at a depth of about 500 metres. The final barrier involves the tunnels and shafts being filled with a swelling clay called bentonite that provides a waterproof barrier.

Interim storage of spent nuclear fuel in Sweden is carried out in Clab, Oskarshamn. It lies in large water basins that cool the fuel for 30 to 40 years.

In related news, Finland's radiation and nuclear authority, STUK, has said that nuclear waste management company Posiva should be allowed to expand the activities of its waste management facility at the site on Olkiluoto island. The island is also home to the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, which has two boiling water reactors rated at 860 MW each. A third reactor, based on the new European Pressurized Reactor from Areva SA and French national utility Electricite de France, is currently under construction. A fourth reactor, from plant owner and Finnish power company Teollisuuden Voima, is also in the planning stages.


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