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ENERGY

Sweden’s state power company to study building mini nuclear plants

Sweden's state power company Vattenfall is looking into building a series of small modular nuclear reactors at the site of its decommissioned Ringhals plant, in what would be the first new nuclear power station in the country since 1980.

Sweden's state power company to study building mini nuclear plants
The control room at Ringhals 1 as it was shut down in 2020. Photo: Jonas Lindstedt/TT

The company’s chief executive Anna Borg said in a press release on Tuesday that the first new reactors could come into operation by the early 2030s, “provided that a pilot study concludes that it would be profitable and all other conditions for a future investment decision are met, in particular, new regulations for nuclear power”. 

The statement comes at a time when Sweden’s right-wing opposition has politicised the issue of nuclear power, criticising the Social Democrat-led government for allowing the the first two nuclear power plants built at Ringhals near Gothenburg to be decommissioned in 2019 and 2020, five years earlier than intended when they were built.

“I think it’s fantastic and exciting news that Vattenfall wants to invest in new nuclear power in southern Sweden,” said Carl-Oskar Bolin, chair of the Swedish parliament’s business committee. “This is exactly what’s required to stabilise power prices in the long run.” 

Johan Pehrson, leader of the Liberal Party, accused the Social Democrats of using the power company to play political games. 

“S [the Social Democrats] has woken up and realised that they can’t win the election by making Sweden cold, and handing over a dead world to our children,” he said. 

Borg told the TT newswire that new nuclear power might be required to meet the demand for emission-free energy.

“We need to find a way forward to meet the increased demand that there is,” she said, pointing out that the number of nuclear power stations in operation in Sweden had fallen from ten to six over the last seven years. 

According to the global nuclear proliferation watchdog, the IAEA, there are several SMRs already under construction, and one, a floating reactor in Russia, already under operation. 

Vattenfall said that it planned to carry out a preliminary study in 2023 and 2024, looking at different designs, before giving the green light for construction to start towards the end of the decade. 

SMRs produce around 300MW, about the same as a gas fired power station, and much less than the 1,100MW produced by one of the modules at the power stations built in the 1970s in Sweden. 

As they can be built at equipment suppliers and then shipped to the site where they will be located, they are expected to be cheaper than the current generation of nuclear power plants, which have historically seen enormous cost overruns and delays. 

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BREAKING

Sweden to set aside 30 billion kronor to lower energy bills

The Swedish government wants to introduce 'high-price protection' to lower energy bills, with state-owned energy authority Svenska Kraftnät setting aside at least 30 billion kronor of energy profits to do so.

Sweden to set aside 30 billion kronor to lower energy bills

“Today we have a very important message,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said in a press conference announcing the measures.

“We want to introduce high-cost protection for current high energy prices,” she said.

She blamed energy prices on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war on Ukraine.

“We’re not going to let Putin hold Swedish households and businesses to ransom,” she said.

Svenska Kraftnät, a state-owned energy authority, expects to have funds of around 60 billion kronor in so-called “bottleneck income” next year.

The government wants those funds to be returned to households and businesses, with Svenska Kraftnät ordered to pay at least 30 of the 60 billion kronor back to households.

It will be up to the authority to determine how the money will be given back to consumers. According to the government, it could be used to lower energy market prices, but could also be given to consumers as direct compensation.

The goal is to provide more compensation to those companies and households hardest hit by high energy prices, meaning that the measures are likely to be aimed towards households and companies in southern Sweden.

It’s not yet clear when repayment will occur, but Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar said the government wants it to be “as soon as possible”. Compensation for last winter’s high energy prices was proposed in January and paid out four months later.

“It’s a repayment of those fees households and businesses have already paid, which we believe they have the right to,” Finance Minister Mikael Damberg said.

Svenska Kraftnät owns the main grid responsible for transporting electricity between different parts of Sweden. The 60 billion kronor bottleneck revenue Svenska Kraftnät is expected to earn by the end of next year is financed by so-called capacity fees paid by power companies and regional grid owners.

“Svenska Kraftnät are not supposed to be collecting piles of money,” Damberg said.

Capacity fees are levied when there are price differences between different parts of the country due to deficiencies in transmission capacity. Recently, those revenues have become unexpectedly high.

The EU’s electricity market regulations determine how the money can be used, for example, for investments, repairs, maintenance or lowering grid tariffs.

During the spring, the government has been in contact with the European Commission, which has now announced that governments may use the funds for emergency measures to benefit households and businesses.

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