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Swedish mayor joins nuclear waste expert to discuss DGR at CLC meeting

September 10, 2021   by Cory Bilyea

TEESWATER – Two guests from Sweden joined the monthly Community Liaison Committee (CLC) on Sept. 2 to talk about their experiences with the nuclear industry and their progress on building a deep geological repository (DGR) for used nuclear fuel.

Like South Bruce and Ignace, Ont. – the two communities remaining in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s site selection process, Östhammar was one of several potential host communities in Sweden. After studies and investigation, it was chosen as the site for the SKB project.

Saida Laarouchi Engström, former vice-president of the nuclear waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering Aktiebolag (SKB), and Jacob Spangenberg, Mayor of Östhammar, a municipality in Sweden that recently voted in favour of hosting a DGR, spoke to members of the CLC via Zoom about their shared knowledge.

Both guests spoke about the need to be open and honest with the communities currently being asked to host a DGR for spent nuclear fuel, “prioritizing sound science, trust, and authenticity are among key factors in siting a nuclear waste project.”

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“You have to show the positive aspects of the repository…openness about the challenges, about what you know and what you don’t know. And you need to be open to listen to the
concerns and views of the local people,” Engström said.

Engström outlined various components of their program, such as transporting the used nuclear fuel, which is primarily done by sea in Sweden, a press release from CLC said.

She also explained the design of SKB’s multi-barrier system for containing the waste, with some similarities to the barrier system that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is planning in Canada.

Sweden has several operating laboratories to investigate and study various components of the SKB project, such as the canister, bentonite, and hard rock.

Engström noted that building public trust includes showing the benefits and openness to the challenges, impacts, and local concerns.

Östhammar’s mayor spoke to members about the impacts on the community, noting that the municipality has three key priorities: participation in decision making from start to finish, that the terms and conditions are clearly defined, and that there is transparency in the decision-making process by other authorities in the country.

Spangenberg said that the “main concern has been knowledge and understanding of what was going to happen and how it might affect the municipality in the future.”

Spangenberg described the various steps in the licensing process, including the municipality, Swedish government, Land and Environment Court, and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

Like Engström, Spangenberg closed by reflecting on key takeaways from their experience so far. He pointed to cooperation between municipalities, openness, and the necessity of financing.

World Nuclear News reported that “SKB, Sweden’s radioactive waste management company, submitted applications to build the country’s first nuclear fuel repository and the encapsulation plant to the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) in March 2011.

“The integrated facility – the encapsulation plant and the Clab interim storage facility – is referred to in SKB’s application as Clink. The application concerns the disposal of 6,000 capsules with a total of 12,000 tonnes of radioactive waste at a depth of about 500 metres. SKB also applied to extend the storage capacity of the Clab facility from the current 8000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes,” stated the report.

“Under the Swedish Environmental Code, before the government makes a final decision, it must consult with the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar, which have the power to veto the application. In June 2018, the municipal council in Oskarshamn voted in favour of SKB’s plan to build the fuel encapsulation plant in the municipality. The municipal council of Östhammar has now approved the planned repository at Forsmark.”

“It is very gratifying indeed that ?sthammar municipality has made this historic decision,” said SKB CEO Johan Dasht. “This is absolutely crucial for making it possible for Sweden to take final responsibility for the radioactive waste produced by our generation.”

He added, “After 40 years of research and development, the matter of final disposal is now fully investigated and it is up to the government to take a decision. We look forward to receiving an answer as soon as possible.”

South Bruce is one of two remaining communities that the NWMO is considering for a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel, a Centre of Expertise, and many supporting facilities. The Municipality of South Bruce is working towards an informed decision for the community through the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Project team, the Community Liaison Committee, and independent reviews to determine if the site is safe for people and the environment, offers positive benefits, and if the community is willing to host the site.
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By Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, WINGHAM ADVANCE TIMES


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