On January 27th, the Swedish Government decided to green-light the country’s deep geological repository and take responsibility for used nuclear fuel. The federal approval will allow the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) to proceed with building a repository deep underground at Forsmark in the Municipality of Östhammar.
Forsmark is a village with approximately 59 inhabitants on the east coast of Uppland, Sweden. It is best known as the location of the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant.
“Sweden and Finland are the first countries in the world to take responsibility for nuclear waste. This will be a secure spent fuel repository that will provide safety for both the environment and people and will provide long-term conditions for the Swedish electricity supply and Swedish jobs,” said Sweden’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Annika Strandhäll, who was clear in her announcement that this was the responsible decision. “The technology and capacity are there. It is irresponsible to leave nuclear waste in water basins year after year without a decision. We must not hand over the responsibility to our children and grandchildren.”
This decision demonstrates the continued international, scientific consensus that a deep geological repository (DGR) is the best solution for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Similar to Canada’s plan for used nuclear fuel, the Swedish Government took a community-driven approach to siting the country’s repository. The process took years to build relationships, learn more about the project, and why a deep geological repository makes sense to protect people and the environment for a very long time. Seeking the community’s social license as a path instead of the traditional regulatory process is something new and is not always easy. It requires kindness, patience and empathy. It requires project proponents to stop and listen, co-design, answer open and honestly. Canada, along with Sweden and many other nuclear countries around the world, are breaking new ground both figuratively and literally.
In a media release, the Government of Sweden said that it “… supports the expert assessment of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority that this is the best possible technology for final disposal and that the triple barrier method is safe and meets the requirements of the legislation, even over a very long time perspective.”
In September of 2021, the Mayor of Östhammar, Jacob Spangenberg, and SKB’s former vice-president Saida Laârouchi Engström spoke to the South Bruce Community Liaison Committee (CLC). Together, they lauded the importance of openness, transparency and of showing the benefits of hosting the project for the community and the country as a whole.
In South Bruce, NWMO continues to engage with the siting area communities, demonstrate the science behind a deep geological repository and how hosting the project will result in real tangible benefits to the community.
“We’re talking about high-value jobs for generations, improved infrastructure and support for community services on par with existing thriving communities in Bruce County. Should South Bruce be selected as the preferred location, we will welcome the world (a few at a time!) to the Centre of Expertise. This will be a national and international tourism attraction and will showcase leading science, innovation and excellence.
What’s more, and what is priceless, is that the community will make history and pioneer a path of responsible environment stewardship and community-driven development.
We congratulate the Municipality of Östhammar, Sweden and SKB on reaching such an important milestone. Your leadership is seen around the world and it is encouraging to see our international counterparts moving forward with their plans. We look forward to continuing to share knowledge and learn from their experiences as their project advances to the next step. While our path will see challenges, it is always nice to know, we’re not alone,” says Tareq Al-Zabet, NWMO Director of Site Selection – South Bruce. “If Sweden can do it, we can too.”