The review process
The authorities review – the Government decides
SKB’s applications for licences to construct a spent fuel repository in Forsmark and an encapsulation plant in Oskarshamn have been reviewed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court and are now with the Government for decision.
The licensing process has taken several years and the final decision is made by the Government after the municipalities has answered yes or no. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) and the Land and Environment Court (MMD) have reviewed SKB’s applications. SSM’s licensing is carried out under the Nuclear Activities Act and MMD’s under the Environmental Code.
SKB’s applications were submitted to the regulatory authorities in March 2011. Shortly thereafter, the review was initiated. The documentation was reviewed by the regulatory authorities’ own experts and a large number of reviewing bodies. The concerned municipalities and county administrative boards, universities and higher education institutions, environmental organisations and others have had the opportunity to give their opinions.
Furthermore, the State requested that an independent international review would be made of the long-term safety after closure of the Spent Fuel Repository. The review was carried out by a group of experts appointed by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency NEA. The group submitted its final report in June 2012 and it gave a favourable opinion on this part of the application.
Answers from two authorities
The main hearing on SKB’s application was held in MMD in the autumn of 2017 and, in January 2018, the court submitted its opinion to the Government. The court was positive in several important respects, for example, it says yes to the issues relating to the site Forsmark, the rock, the buffer, the environmental impact statement and the facilities in Oskarshamn, but it calls for more documentation on the copper canisters. SSM also provided its answer in January and the authority’s statement was a clear yes to SKB’s system for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel
Approved by the Government
In April 2019 SKB submitted the documentation required by MMD to the Government. The concerned municipalities, Östhammar and Oskarshamn, which have the right of a veto in the matter, have both said yes to the establishments. Östhammar Municipality regarding the Spent Fuel Repository and Oskarshamn Municipality regarding the encapsulation plant. So matter was then put on the Government’s table for decision. In January 2022, the Government approved SKB’s application.
After the Government has made its decision, the matter is now handed back to SSM and MMD that will stipulate conditions for the facilities. The municipalities will also decide whether to grant building permits under the Planning and Building Act. SKB hopes that construction of the Spent Fuel Repository and the encapsulation plant can begin sometime in the 2020s and take around 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.