Final repository for spent nuclear fuel

The method for final disposal developed by SKB implies disposing of spent nuclear fuel from Sweden at a depth of approximately 500 metres in Swedish bedrock. The final repository shall be designed so that it does not require maintenance or supervision as there is no way to guarantee maintenance and supervisory work over a period of time lasting many thousands of years.

Sweden has made use of nuclear power since the 1960s. In the mid-1970s, the Swedish Government determined that producers of nuclear power were to be responsible for the safe management of spent nuclear fuel, and in 1976, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) was established.

SKB is collectively owned by the Swedish nuclear power industry. One of SKB's tasks is to develop a method for the safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel for as long a period of time as is necessary to protect people as well as the environment.

SKB’s proposed repository method

SKB's method is called 'KBS-3'. 'KBS' stands for the words 'nuclear fuel safety' in Swedish, and the number three designates this as the third and most recent version presented by SKB in its research programme.

SKB plans to construct a final repository so that radiation safety is guaranteed by what are known as 'barriers'. The spent nuclear fuel will be placed in canisters with an external shell made of copper and an insert of cast iron. The canisters will be disposed of at a depth of approximately 500 metres in Swedish bedrock. These canisters will be surrounded by a special kind of clay (bentonite) that swells when it comes in contact with groundwater. The entire repository will ultimately be filled with clay.

The repository site

SKB has selected Forsmark in the municipality of Östhammar as the site of the repository for spent nuclear fuel. The choice was between Laxemar in Oskarshamn Municipality and Forsmark in Östhammar Municipality.

In 2002, SKB began to investigate the bedrock and groundwater in the above two municipalities. During its work, SKB continually submits reports to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM. Reporting was formerly done to the Authority's predecessors: SKI and SSI.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority reviews these reports in detail and requests supplemental and/or more in-depth information when necessary.

The Authority does not have any standpoint on what site selection for the repository might mean for the municipality in terms of infrastructure, housing or employment opportunities.

Consultation with the parties concerned

SKB is responsible for consulting with groups that will be affected by the final repository. The intention is that all parties affected are to have an opportunity to participate in decision-making. Examples of this kind of group include municipal and county residents, municipal and county politicians, municipal and county employees, as well as environmental and other special interest groups. The Authority is also represented in such consultation.

When will the repository be operational?

If SKB is granted a licence to construct the repository, a great deal of work remains before it becomes operational. SKB will begin by building tunnels and shafts in the bedrock. At the same time, the company will conduct new investigations and report its findings to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. Before the final repository can be used, SKB must draw up safety reports that the Authority's experts will then review and approve.

Pronouncement to the Swedish Government

On 23 January 2018, the Authority completed its review and submitted its pronouncement to the Government recommending that the Government grant SKB licences for these facilities: the encapsulation facility at Oskarshamn, and the repository at Forsmark. Following the pronouncement of the Land and Environment Court of Nacka District Court on this same date, the Government will take the final decision on this permission.