Down to Earth...and Below
Sweden's Plans for Nuclear Waste
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The goal of the site investigation phase is to obtain a permit to build
the deep repository for spent nuclear fuel. The permit applications will
be based on broad supporting documentation. The investigations of the rock
serve as a basis for configuring the underground units of the deep repository.
These results will also influence the positioning and layout of the surface
units of the repository and provide input for assessment of the environmental
Much experience has been gained by SKB and others over the past 25 years
of managing and communicating the nuclear waste programme. They can be
summarized as follows:
- It is necessary to be clear and open, and it is vital to carefully
define the problem to be discussed. Communication should concentrate
first on why (sharing the problem) and then on how nuclear waste should
- Words cannot replace action. Trust or distrust will depend mainly on
how an organisation is seen to behave. Thus priority should be given
to actions - they speak louder than words. Visits to operational sites
are important because people seldom disbelieve what they see with their
own eyes, and practical demonstrations of how spent fuel can be handled
- like in CLAB, the central interim storage facility - help to enhance
confidence in future plans.
- It is important to maintain a constant dialogue with all stakeholders
and the general public. Trust must be based upon continuity and an open
discussion of all issues. Also difficulties and potential problems should
be actively communicated to the public and the press by the implementer.
- We live in a global village. Events and debates in one country can
be picked up literally within seconds by the media in another country.
Thus there is a mutual dependence between waste management programmes.
For instance, the progress made in neighbouring countries like Finland
and Sweden has provided a mutual support between these two programmes.
Thus the decision, in principle, in Finland on deep geological disposal
(KBS-concept) at Olkiluoto has been most helpful in the Swedish debate.
On the other hand some of the international discussions on international
or multinational repositories have posed difficulties because such discussions
- if they are not well structured - have created doubts about the possibilities
of local municipalities to stay in control of the types and origins of
the waste to be disposed of in their area.
However, if it is well structured and focuses on the development of a
common basis of knowledge, international cooperation is important and rewarding.
For a good number of years, the close international co-operation and co-ordination
in R&D as well as safety principles within IAEA and other international
fora has been extremely valuable.
I would like in particular to also emphasise IAEA's Joint Convention
on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive
Waste Management. It provides clear statements about the need for well-defined
national waste management strategies and programmes as well as underlining
that each country has a responsibility for its nuclear waste. The fact
that it requires the presentation and international review of the programme
documents will be a significant tool in helping all Member States define
and develop their nuclear waste management plans.