Environmentalists slam Swedish nuclear waste export

For the first time in over 20 years, Sweden is to send nuclear waste for reprocessing at the much-criticised Sellafield plant on the east coast of England.

The move has angered environmentalists, who argue that the plant is unsafe, but Sweden’s environment minister, Lena Sommestad, said that there is no alternative.

At the beginning of the 1980s Sweden stopped sending material to Sellafield, instead storing it unprocessed in Oskarshamn. But now the Swedish company, Svafo AB, is to export 4.6 tonnes of nuclear waste from the 50s, 60s and 70s to Sellafield.

The company will also import 833 kilos of plutonium, which will be used as fuel in the Oskarshamn reactors.

“This is wrong in every way,” said Gustav Fridolin, a member of parliament for the Green Party.

“Sweden should not take part in any way in the operation at Sellafield. We have tried before to get back the nuclear waste we exported earlier. To begin exporting again gives entirely the wrong signals in a country which has said it wants to get rid of nuclear power.”

Sellafield has been criticised for its apparent lack of security after a number of reported leaks. In a recent incident a small amount of plutonium disappeared from the plant.

Both the Norwegian and Irish governments have protested about Sellafield, and Gustav Fridolin said that the plant is too unsafe for Sweden to support its operation.

“When Sellafield begins to leak, as it has a tendency to, the radioactivity will come via airstreams to the Swedish and Norwegian west coast,” he told Swedish Radio.

The general secretary of Greenpeace in Sweden, Lennart Daléus, called on the Swedish government to step in – irrespective of the EU laws which allow it.

“The government ought to act to stop this happening – if you have to go against EU regulations, so be it,” he said.

But Sweden’s environment minister, Lena Sommestad, was behind the export.

“The waste is of an older type which we can’t deal with in Sweden these days,” she said.

“It must be reprocessed before it is sent back to Sweden for final storage.”

Sommestad said that Sellafield had tightened up its safety measures, but emphasised that this case was an exception.

“There is no more waste. This is the last of the old Swedish nuclear programme, where this type of fuel was produced,” she said.

“My hope is that within a number of years we can ensure that all the waste that has ever been produced in Sweden comes back to be stored in the safest possible way.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, SR