Sweden has had nuclear power since the 1970s. It was realized early on that this entails waste that requires special handling. The nuclear power companies then joined together and created Svensk kärnbränslehantering AB, SKB, to solve this task. SKB was tasked with researching this, and ultimately presenting a suitable method and location that meets the authorities' requirements regarding radioactive waste.
The final repositories
Since 1988, there has been a final repository for short-lived low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste in Forsmark. In 2014, SKB applied to expand this repository to accommodate mainly decommissioning waste from the reactors that are now shut down.
However, the biggest issue concerns a final repository for spent nuclear fuel. In 1995, SKB asked the municipality of Östhammar for permission to carry out in-depth investigations in the municipality. After a long process, with in-depth site investigations in Östhammar and Oskarshamn, SKB in 2009 decided that Forsmark was considered the most suitable location. Two years later the applications to establish a final repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark was submitted. The project is very complex and includes the establishment and expansion of the facilities in Oskarshamn, where all spent nuclear fuel is now waiting in an intermediate storage facility called CLAB.
Finally, SKB is also planning for a final repository for long-lived low- and intermediate-level waste. That process has not progressed so far and neither method nor location has been determined. This final repository is called SFL.
All these establishments require, among other things, extensive legal processes. Östhammar municipality has had municipal veto both in terms of SFR (plus for the expansion) and the final repository for spent nuclear fuel. The municipality has, via the municipal council, said yes to both repositories. After extensive processing in the Environmental Court and at the Radiation Safety Authority, as well as after the municipality's approvals, the government announced that it will allow both the expansion of SFR and the final repository for spent nuclear fuel. Even if the legal processes are not yet completed, the governments decisions means that the repositories will be allowed to be built.
The municipality's work
Östhammar municipality has been part of this process for a long time. From allowing the construction of SFR in the early 1980s to the veto decisions that the municipality announced in 2020/2021 and onwards during certain subsequent steps in the process.
In order to meet the need to be an active and well-informed part in these matters, the municipality already in 1995created a special ”final disposal organization”. The composition of the organization has changed over the years, depending on at what stage in the process we were, but it has always consisted of both local politicians and civil servants. The purpose of the organization is to review documents and give input to the municipal board on various issues, but also to contribute with information and dialogue with the public.
At the end of 2022, a court hearing was conducted in the Land and Environment Court in Nacka. The permit according to the environmental code came just before Christmas, where it was announced which conditions apply to the expansion of the existing final repository, SFR. This means that SKB can now begin the preparations for the expansion, for example landfills. However, before SKB can start the expansion of the underground facilities an approval is also needed from the Radiation Authority.
There will be another court hearing regarding the final repository for spent nuclear fuel, but it is planned for further in the future, currently set for 2024.