On 16 March 2011 the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), applied for permits to build a final deposit for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark, in the northern part of the Municipality of Östhammar. The applications were submitted to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm.

These authorities will, after extensive review of the applications, give the Swedish Government their opinions. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority reviews the applications on the basis of the Swedish Nuclear Activities Act and The Environmental Court reviews the applications on the basis of Sweden’s Environmental Code.

The process of reviewing the applications includes referring them to a number of other authorities, experts and organizations for consultation. The process is expected to take several years.

An important decision to make
The Swedish Government makes the final decision on whether to allow SKB to build a repository or not, but the Municipality of Östhammar has a unique role in the process. The municipality has a veto and will be asked by the Government if it accepts a final deposit in Forsmark or not.

Background

Sweden has used nuclear power for about 30 years and has 10 nuclear reactors in use today. One nuclear reactor produces on average about 20 tons of spent nuclear fuel each year. Spent nuclear fuel is highly dangerous for humans and the environment for at least 100,000 years. Today, the Swedish spent nuclear fuel is stored under water in an interim storage facility (Clab) near Oskarshamn. For several reasons, this is not the best possible solution in the long term.

Funding and responsibility
Under Swedish law, the nuclear power industry must develop methods for disposing of Swedish nuclear waste. For each kWh electricity delivered from nuclear power plants, a fee is payed to the Nuclear Waste Fund, which is administered by the State. This means that those who benefit from nuclear power also helps pay for the waste management.

This is the solution suggested by the implementer
The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, has proposed a method of final disposal deep in the bedrock. First, the spent nuclear fuel is to be stored for 40 years in water to reduce the heat and immanent radioactivity. The spent fuel is thereafter to be placed in cast iron inserts inside copper canisters. These canisters are to be deposited 500 meters deep in the granite bedrock with a buffer of bentonite clay, intended to absorb the surrounding water and protect against harmful effects. Read more about the method proposed on SKB’s site.

Forsmark judged as the most suitable location by the implementer
For many years SKB conducted site investigations in different locations in Sweden in order to find a safe location for a final repository. In 2002 they had narrowed their investigations to the Municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar. In June 2009 SKB declared Forsmark as the safest location, with bedrock possessing the best conditions for their proposed method. In March 2011 SKB submitted applications for permits to build a final repository in Forsmark to the Swedish authorities; the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court in Nacka.

About spent nuclear fuel

Nuclear fuel usually starts out as uranium and is used in a nuclear reactor where the uranium atom splits apart in a fission reaction releasing a lot of heat energy. The heat energy is then used to boil water to create the steam that runs the turbines that makes the electricity. After some time the fuel becomes inefficient and is replaced by new (usually 1/5-1/4 is changed each year). The fuel removed from the reactor is called spent nuclear fuel and is highly radioactive and therefore very dangerous. It needs to be kept isolated from humans and the environment for 100 000 years until it has decayed to the same level as it was in the original material used to create the fuel.

About ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation is radiation that is consisting of so much energy that it has the ability to rip electrons from the nucleus and thus create ions.

Ionizing radiations exists naturally all around us in the so-called background radiation. The background radiation comes from our bodies, the space and the ground. The background radiation is about 1 mSv/year per person. In addition to the background radiation every person gets about 2 mSv/year from medical examinations and treatments, industries and houses.

Why is ionizing radiation dangerous?

Ionizing radiation has so much energy that it can change the cells in our bodies and damage the DNA. Normally the cells will repair themselves but it can also lead to the development of cancer. A person exposed for a single dose of 20 mSv has an increased risk of 0.1% of developing cancer, although it can take several years. At very high doses (above 1 Sv) a large amount of cells gets damage and acute radiation sickness occurs. With doses over 5 Sv the survival chances are unlikely.

About the Municipality of Östhammar

Östhammar Municipality is an archepelago municipality by the Baltic. The biggest built-up area is Östhammar which is situated 70 km from Uppsala and 120 km from Stockholm. The municipality lies within Uppsala County and has a population of nearly 22 000 distributed between five built-up areas and various villages. The built-up areas within the municipality are Alunda, Gimo, Österbybruk,
Östhammar and Öregrund.

Östhammar Municipality is located in Roslagen with magnificant natural surroundings and the sea as nearest neighbours. We possess a coastline of 4 000 kilometres and around 1 000 islands. There are more than 5 000 holiday homes in the municipality which also boasts rich cultural traditions with several well-preserved Walloon estates and manors. Some 2 000 businesses create growth in the municipality and the development is intensive. Construction work proceeds as never before as more and more people wish to live here.

The municipality is home to the Forsmark nuclear power plant with three reactors and the final repository for low and intermediate nuclear waste (SFR).

The municipality has worked actively on the question of final disposal of spent fuel since 1995 when SKB first started feasibility studies for a final disposal of spent nuclear fuel within the municipality’s borders.

Contact information

You can always reach the municipality’s staff working with questions regarding final disposal of spent nuclear fuel by e-mailing slutforvarsenheten@osthammar.se or by calling the municipality’s customer service at +46 (0)173-860 000.