Setback for Nuclear Waste Burial – Swedish Review Finds Major Shortcomings (October 2012)

October 31, 2012


North Bay – Canadian environmental groups concerned about a proposal to bury nuclear waste in Canada are calling recent statements by the Swedish nuclear regulator “very significant”. Earlier this week the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority released its finding that the Swedish nuclear industry’s application for a geological repository for nuclear waste was inadequate in several key areas.

In March 2011 the Swedish nuclear industry organization SKB submitted their license application for the construction of a spent nuclear fuel repository to be located in Forsmark, Sweden. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority had estimated that their review would take two years. This week they released their initial findings as advice to the Swedish environmental court.

“The Swedish findings are very significant for the Canadian industry’s nuclear waste burial plans”, said Brennain Lloyd, spokesperson for the northern Ontario based environmental group Northwatch.

“The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has modeled their plan to bury Canada’s nuclear fuel waste on the Swedish proposal. This review by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority reveals some fundamental weaknesses in both of these burial schemes.”

The Swedish regulator has found that the Swedish industry’s nuclear waste burial plan is deficient in several key areas, and that it lacked the necessary information related to the long-term safety of the project and the protection of human health, and that further research may be required to address information gaps related to the long term integrity of the copper canisters that would be used to store the highly radioactive nuclear fuel waste.

“We also want to see more clear-cut plans for SKBs demonstration of how the technology for disposing of the canisters underground in the spent nuclear fuel repository will give the standard assumed by the company in its license application”, said  government specialist Bjorn Diverstorp.

“The NWMO likes to point to Sweden as an example of a country that has already decided to go ahead with nuclear waste burial and seems close to actually doing it. The Swedish Authority’s initial review findings make it clear that an approval is still some distance off  – and may be getting farther off rather than closer as the Swedish environmental review proceeds”, Lloyd commented.

In 2005, the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization released its plan to bury nuclear waste 500 metres below the surface in a large rock formation in some yet-to-be-determined location. Twenty-one communities – including 12 in northern Ontario – are now being investigated as possible burial locations.

Visit www.northwatch.org of www.KnowNuclearWaste.ca for background. 

Swedish Radiation Safety Authority statements on the SKB license application available at: http://www.stralsakerhetsmyndigheten.se/In-English/About-the-Swedish-Radiation-Safety-Authority1/News1/Consultation-response-to-the-land-and-environmental-court-Considerable-need-for-supplements-to-SKBs-repository-application/

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