Viewpoint: Why is the Swedish government sacrificing its democratic tradition on nuclear waste? : Viewpoints


25 August 2021

The Swedish government must take a decision on the application for the construction of a high-level waste repository and not consider it separately from that of an extension of the existing interim spent fuel repository at Clab, write the CEO of Clab. the World Nuclear Association, Sama Bilbao y León and Public. Director of Business John Lindberg. Dividing the nominations, they say, is a “fox and geese” political game that is extremely unworthy of an established democracy like Sweden.

Sama Bilbao y León and John Lindberg (Image: World Nuclear Association)

The history of nuclear waste is one with countless chapters, a question that has sparked heated debate around the world for many decades. Following the Conditions Act of 1977 that Swedish nuclear reactor operators had to show that they could manage its waste safely, the Swedish nuclear industry led the global work to find sustainable management methods for its waste. Even though the KBS-3 disposal model, developed by Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB), is undeniably a world leader from a scientific and technical point of view, it is really in working with local communities that Sweden has demonstrated its international leadership. It is therefore extremely worrying how the Swedish government treats its more than 40 year old democratic process, which has made Sweden a global model.

It is no coincidence that various storage projects around the world (e.g. UK, US, Germany) have stalled due to a lack of local acceptance, the projects in Sweden and Finland have progressed slowly but surely. The Swedish model, characterized by transparency, mutual trust and a process involving stakeholders at every stage, is widely regarded as best practice. The failed projects have one important common denominator: the authorization process was politicized from the start. The Swedish government’s attempt to politicize the process at the 11th hour therefore seems historically muffled.

That the Swedish government is now trying to break SKB’s demand for a final benchmark – even if this runs counter to decades of work and agreements across the political spectrum – is a political game of ‘Fox and geese ”which is extremely unworthy of an established democracy like Sweden. It is particularly striking that the attempts at division are taking place despite the fact that the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar – future hosts of the intermediate and final deposits – have opposed them. When the administrative councils of Uppsala and Kalmar counties – the government’s own officials – warned that “a review of interim storage as an individual case in this situation would entail significant problems and risks from a security perspective. legal certainty ”, the alarm bells should have sounded far away.

It is a tragic fact that the dogmatic energy policy of the Swedish government not only undermines the low carbon energy future and the country’s climate goals, but also damages Sweden’s reputation abroad. The fact that Vattenfall had to warn of serious operational disruptions and the shutdown of the majority of Swedish reactors from 2024 due to the reaching of the authorization limit of the intermediate storage facility CLAB made eyebrow the world. That a Swedish government resorted to crippling 30% of the country’s electricity production, causing massive economic damage, both to individuals and to the country as a whole through democratically questionable methods, is astonishing to say the least.

It will also seriously erode confidence in Sweden as a country with a transparent, reliable and fair business climate. When the government tears up best practices in this way, it inadvertently sets up new processes that risk not only driving away investment, but also striking directly at the heart of democracy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to matter in the corridors of power in Stockholm.

The fact that nuclear power played a key role in establishing Sweden as a superpower in climate policy cannot be underestimated. Nuclear power has served as an anchor in an increasingly turbulent world, and the production of cheap, fossil-free energy since 1963 has been directly instrumental in the prosperity Sweden enjoys today. With nuclear power, Sweden has succeeded once and for all in proving that it is possible to separate economic growth from carbon dioxide emissions. As the majority of the world’s population has not yet passed through this phase of development, there is much to learn from Sweden. Unfortunately, it seems that the Swedish government itself has forgotten these lessons.

Two fundamental cornerstones of modern Sweden are at stake: power generation and a thriving democracy. The Swedish government must now defend – and protect – Swedish industry and defend the democratic process that all previous governments – regardless of their political affiliation – have respected. SKB’s request for the final benchmark should be dealt with in its entirety, in accordance with the democratically established process and consultation responses from various authorities, business and local representatives. Everything else would be an extremely dark day for Sweden.

Sama Bilbao y León and John Lindberg

A version of this article was originally posted by Second opinion, entitled Ovärdigt politiskt rävspel om slutförvar

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