Japan crisis complicates Sweden's nuclear waste storage plans

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Japan crisis complicates Sweden's nuclear waste storage plans

In the thick of the Japanese nuclear crisis, Sweden is tackling the question of nuclear waste storage.


On Wednesday the country's nuclear industry is handing in a proposal to store nuclear waste at the site of the Forsmark power plant, north of Uppsala.

The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) want to bury the nuclear waste 500 metres down in the Swedish bedrock, encased in copper and surrounded by bensonite clay.

“Considering what is happening in Japan it is clear that we need a better system for storage than what we have now,” SKB CEO Claes Thegeström said at a press conference.

According to SKB scientists, this method, called KBS-3, will keep the waste harmless for at least 100,000 years. But not everyone agrees that it is safe.

Peter Szakalos, an expert on corrosion science from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), is worried about the sustainability of the storage.

“There is a definite risk that the copper will corrode within a millennium. In that case we’ll have a nervous thousand years ahead of us,” he told newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).

The Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) thinks that it will be difficult for SKB to get their proposal through.

At the same time they are finding it difficult to review the case, as many of the documents are classified, according to DN.

SKB doesn't seen any problems with KBS-3.

Instead they say that after reviewing all the different processes, they have come to the conclusion that this is the most viable option based on the gathered experimental data.

“We believe that we can build a safe storage facility. We think it is important to have this proposal tried, and we feel very confident, Thegestöm said.

Outside the office buildings of SKB a small group of Greenpeace activists wearing Scream masks gathered in protest on early Wednesday morning.

Some scaled the building and hung up a banner urging the board members to vote against the proposal.

“We are here to protest against the plans to bury dangerous nuclear waste in the bedrock,” Martina Kruger, responsible for energy and climate matters at Greenpeace, said to news agency TT.

There are still too many questions regarding safety and risk that need answering, according to Martina Kruger.

“Radioactivity is too dangerous to simply pretend that the problems surrounding it have been solved,” she said to TT.

Demonstrations against nuclear energy are planned across the country on Wednesday evening following the accidents in Japan.


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