Swedish Radiation Safety Authority issues pronouncement on final disposal

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, has undertaken a regulatory review of the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company's (SKB) licence applications for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. The review found that SKB has the potential to meet the requirements of the Act on Nuclear Activities concerning safe final disposal. Today, the Authority (SSM) has submitted its formal findings to the Swedish Government.

SSM recommends approval of SKB's licence applications under the Act on Nuclear Activities for permission to construct a repository for spent nuclear fuel at Forsmark, Östhammar Municipality, as well as an encapsulation facility in Oskarshamn Municipality. Östhammar Municipality is located on the east coast of central Sweden. Oskarshamn Municipality is located on the south-east coast.

"The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority assesses that SKB has the potential to ensure safe management and final disposal of spent nuclear fuel so that human health and the environment are protected against harmful effects of radiation," says Ansi Gerhardsson, head of section at SSM.

SSM considers that SKB, though its licence applications, has demonstrated that the facilities and associated safety analysis reports, or SARs, can be developed in accordance with the established procedure for a step-wise permitting process under the Act on Nuclear Activities. SKB is assessed as having the potential and capability to produce updated SARs covering construction, operation, and long-term nuclear safety and radiation protection, which will need to be scrutinised and approved by SSM in future steps if licences are granted by the Swedish Government.

"There are a number of prerequisites for SSM's recommendation to approve the licence applications, such as the continued development of SARs and management systems for these facilities in accordance with the step-wise permitting process under the Act on Nuclear Activities. This means that SKB, at several stages of an ongoing process, must submit further information and analysis to be examined and approved by SSM before the company is allowed to move on to the next step of the process," says Ms Gerhardsson.

The Authority's recommendation for licence approval applies to the specific sites, as well as to the quantities and types of spent nuclear fuel that are specified in the licence applications. SSM's favourable judgment further presupposes that SKB, in the design, construction and operation of these facilities, continues to take into account matters of significance for radiation safety and development needs identified by SSM in its scrutiny of the licence applications.

The Authority has also proposed certain conditions to be attached to Government licences for SKB's facilities. These conditions require that the facilities should be constructed, taken into possession and operated as specified in the applications, as well as that SKB should produce SARs for examination and approval by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority prior to construction commencing, before beginning test operation, and before a facility starts routine operation.

For more information, please contact: Ansi Gerhardsson, Head of Section, Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), on Tel. +46 8 799 43 51, or SSM's press officer on Tel. +46 8 799 40 20.

About SSM's regulatory review

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has a comprehensive responsibility in the areas of radiation protection, nuclear safety and nuclear non-proliferation. The Authority works proactively and preventively to protect people and the environment from harmful effects of radiation, now and in the future. This entails designing rules, issuing regulations, considering authorisation and issuing licences for activities and practices involving radiation, in addition to regulatory supervision of parties carrying out activities, for example licensees.

Under the Act on Nuclear Activities, a party that holds a licence to conduct nuclear activities is responsible for ensuring safety in such operation. The licensee must also take the measures necessary for safe handling, management and final disposal of waste. Nuclear power companies in Sweden have commissioned the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, or SKB, to develop solutions for the disposal of spent fuel from Swedish nuclear power plants.

In 2011, SKB submitted applications for licences to develop an encapsulation facility and a final repository for spent nuclear fuel. SSM, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, has examined the licence applications. In this work the Authority had the assistance of national and international experts. The licence applications were also distributed as part of a national consultation procedure involving academia, affected municipal authorities and other public bodies, and environmental organisations.