Spent nuclear fuel repository

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, has reviewed the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company's (SKB) application for permission to construct a repository for spent nuclear fuel. The Authority completed its examination of the application in 2018. On 23 January 2018, we submitted our statement to the Government, recommending that it permit SKB to construct the repository.

Approval of SKB's licence application is the first stage in a process that would lead to construction and operation of a repository for spent nuclear fuel near the Forsmark nuclear power plant. SKB has also sought permission to develop an encapsulation facility at Clab, in Oskarshamn Municipality. SSM has also recommended that the Government grant this licence.

The Land and Environment Court of Nacka District Court has also examined the licence applications in parallel and issued its pronouncement to the Government on 23 January 2018.

In 2014, SKB also sought permission to extend SFR, the existing repository for short-lived radioactive waste. The Authority expects to finish this regulatory review by summer 2018.

Swedish legislation requires producers of nuclear energy to also manage all waste from their reactors. The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, or SKB, which was founded by the nuclear power companies in the 1970s, is currently planning to construct a geological repository for spent nuclear fuel.  A geological repository implies safe storage of spent nuclear fuel over several hundred thousand years. This is needed because spent nuclear fuel is an environmental hazard and it takes a very long time for the radioactivity to diminish.

SKB has proposed construction of the repository in Östhammar Municipality, with the intention of disposing of the spent fuel 500 metres underground in the bedrock at Forsmark. SKB is planning to launch construction of the spent nuclear fuel repository in the early 2020s; however, these plans are subject to approval by the Swedish Government.

Performing reviews of repository safety

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority undertakes assessments of SKB’s plans to ensure that both the site and method for final disposal are sufficiently safe. A repository must not expose people or the environment to more radiation than one-hundredth of the level of background radiation. This restriction applies now and for the protection of future generations.

Background radiation is largely from natural sources. Examples include radiation from the ground, radon from building materials, and cosmic radiation (from space).

Broad range of knowledge about aspects of final disposal

Over the past three decades, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) and its predecessors (the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority, or SSI, and the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate, or SKI) have been reviewing the nuclear power industry’s research, development and demonstration programmes in support of the development of a spent nuclear fuel repository. Consequently, we have built up a good capability to analyse a geological repository’s long-term radiation safety: 

  • The Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) carried out two large-scale safety analyses in the 1990s. One safety analysis dealt with aspects that might have a future impact on a geological repository: climate change, for instance. One of the analyses was reviewed by international experts and was rated highly.
  • The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has developed its own calculation models, for example models showing how radioactive substances from the repository might be dispersed in the environment.
  • SSM also liaises with a large number of national and international experts and teams of experts. Representing many different specialties, these experts possess extensive knowledge since most of them have been working with repository-related matters for many years.

International co-operation

SSM, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, takes part in international co-operation and research relating to final disposal, such as in the European Union and with OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

In addition to these areas, SSM runs research and development projects together with government agencies in other countries. One example is STUK, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. STUK is the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s sister authority in Finland.