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IAEA Director General Visits Sweden

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visits the SKB Canister Laboratory in Oskarshamn, Sweden on 14 June 2014.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visits the SKB Canister Laboratory in Oskarshamn, Sweden, on 14 June 2014. (Photo: C. Brady/IAEA)

Sweden's pioneering work on the disposal of nuclear and radioactive waste was the centre point of an official visit to the country by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on 9 and 10 June 2014.

As well as meeting government ministers and other senior officials in Stockholm, the Director General had a tour of the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, the Canister Laboratory in Oskarshamn and the Interim Storage Facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel.

Sweden is among the more advanced countries in the world in addressing the final disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste through deep geological disposal.

"Sweden's innovative approach to the management and disposal of nuclear waste, which includes inviting municipalities to volunteer to host facilities, has attracted a lot of international attention," Director General Amano said in a speech in Stockholm on Atoms for Peace in 21st Century.

Applications by SKB - the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company - to license a deep geological facility for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, as well as for a related plant, are being considered by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court.

At the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, some 400 metres below ground in the granite bedrock of southern Sweden, the Director General was able to see some of the research work being carried out by SKB to ensure that the eventual long-term repository will meet the IAEA's and Sweden's stringent environmental and safety standards.

The Director General was impressed not only by Sweden's commitment to upholding the highest safety and environmental standards, but also by the level of transparency shown by the authorities in explaining the project to the public and involving local communities.

He met the Mayor of Oskarshamn, Mr. Peter Wretlund, who was involved in decisions related to siting and other aspects of the project. "Public acceptance has often been a significant issue in addressing radioactive waste storage and disposal," the Director General said. "The Swedish approach in fully involving local municipalities is a very useful model."

The final disposal of spent nuclear fuel has sometimes been seen as a major obstacle to nuclear power development. The work being done by Swedish authorities at the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory and its plans to construct a spent nuclear fuel repository at Forsmark demonstrate that permanent disposal solutions can be found.

During his visit, the Director General met Sweden's Minister for the Environment, Ms. Lena Ek, and Mr. Frank Belfrage, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as well as senior officials of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

He also paid a courtesy call on Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Victoria, briefing her on the work the Agency is doing related to protection of the environment.

As the Director General noted during his visit, radioactive waste management is a vital issue for all countries using nuclear technologies for health, food, agriculture, water management, industry, research as well as for the generation of nuclear power. The next IAEA Scientific Forum, taking place on 23 and 24 September 2014, will focus on nuclear technologies for the safe and sustainable management of all types of radioactive waste.

(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)