The company responsible for delivering Sweden’s deep geological repository, SKB, are planning to subject their research into copper corrosion to international peer review in the new year. SKB believe this is the most transparent and open way in which to address concerns about the contentious issue, which has held up final decision-making on the Swedish national repository for higher activity radioactive waste.
Earlier this year the Swedish Environmental Court largely approved SKB’s plans for a geological disposal facility in Osthammar. However, the Court had concerns about the speed at which copper canisters corrode and the potential consequential environmental impact. Conflicting scientific evidence was presented to the Court. The Court decided that this was something the Swedish Government needed to consider further before any approval was given to the planned radioactive waste disposal facility. The Swedish Government asked SKB to provide additional information by 31 March 2019.
It is understood that SKB plan to have completed their review by Christmas, and will then offer their findings for independent international peer review.
Local community campaign group OSS are concerned that SKB have not taken sufficient time to review all necessary scientific research. They remain concerned that SKB are focused on defending their original position, and believe that the international review process will simply highlight divided scientific opinion, rather than provide clarity.
Although SKB have confidence in their original research (backed by the nuclear regulator), they acknowledge the need to review everything to address the Court’s concerns. They also believe that in opening up the findings to international review will help build public confidence in the results.
Although the Swedish Government provided no timescale on when they might rule on whether and how to proceed with the repository, there seems to be a general feeling amongst all observers that it will be 2020 before any substantive progress is next likely to be made.
However, there has been some positive news for the planned repository siting process. The Municipal Council of Oskarshamn (who lost out to Osthammar as being hosts for the planned repository) have voted in favour of the planned new encapsulation plant for spent fuel which will be built in their municipality. This decision was not expected to be made quite so quickly, but does provide clarity, removing the threat of Oskarshamn exercising their veto when the Swedish Government eventually does formally seek their approval.