The Forsmark NPP, in Sweden, will be first to house a deep geological repository for its high-level radioactive waste (HLW)

geological repository

SKB, Sweden’s nuclear fuel and waste management company, decided on 3 June 2009 to build its final repository for spent nuclear fuel at Forsmark. The waste disposal facility, which could be completed in 2015, should be the first permanent disposal for high level waste (HLW) to be built in the world.  It has taken around 20 years to eventually make

a decision on where to build the facility. The company had to choose between Forsmark in the municipality of Östhammar and Laxemar, in the municipality of Öskarshamn. The next stage is for SKB to send in 2010 applications for permits to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court. The applications include the environmental impact assessment and a safety analysis for a nuclear fuel repository in Forsmark. Swedish high-level waste will be disposed of in the final repository in crystalline bedrock at a depth of nearly 500 m.

For the high-level waste, there is broad consensus in Europe that deep geological disposal is the best applicable technical solution. Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and France have taken the political decision to assess the deep geological disposal option and are close to authorising the construction and starting up of sites. Switzerland and France are still in the process of selecting a site for the facility. Other countries are actively considering this option. The rock formations most studied for deep disposal are clay (in Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland), crystalline rocks (Sweden, Finland and Switzerland) and salt (Germany).

In 2001, a governmental decision in principle was ratified by the Finnish Parliament. It states that the location of the future final repository will be in Olkiluoto, Eurajoki. The facility is expected to start by 2020. In Switzerland, the Federal Council adopted on 2 April 2008 a plan to construct deep geological repositories. The selection of the site is currently being carried out. NAGRA, the Swiss waste management company, has already proposed potential sites. The 2006 French law on radioactive waste management provides that a deep geological repository for high-level waste should be built by 2025. The law also indicates that waste has to be retrievable.

In other European countries such as Belgium, Germany and the UK, research is being carried out and different options are being investigated, but no decision has been taken yet as regards final disposal of high-level waste. In any case, solutions do exist and it is only a matter of political will to decide which one is the most appropriate.

For further information on the Swedish decision, you can read SKB's press release. For more information on deep geological repositories, please consult the EIG EURIDICE website.

Here is a breakdown of the current situation in Europe regarding deep geological disposal;

  Company Decision Location Research Start Type
Belgium ONDRAF Decision in-principle
expected by 2011
Not known Mol, Hades DGR (clay) Not known Not know
Finland POSIVA 2001: Decision in-principle Olkiluoto (2001) None 2020 DGR (crystalline bedrock)
France ANDRA 2006: law on RWM Selection in process Bure (Meuse) DGR (clay) 2025 DGR (retrievability)
Germany BFS None Not known Gorleben DGR (salt) Not Known Not know
Sweden SKB 1977: Stipulation Law 
2001-2002 approval of DGD
Forsmark (2009) Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory (DGR) 2015 DGR
Switzerland NAGRA 2008: Plan to build DGR Selection in process Grimsel pass (Canton Bern): DGR (clay) Not Known DGR
UK NDA 2008: White Paper on RWM (framework for GD) Not known None Not Known DGR

DGR: deep geological repository; RWM: radioactive waste management; GD: geological disposal)


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