Sweden - Plutonium Investigation n°14/15

Secret Plutonium Past, Controversial Disposal Future

   Sweden is the only country where not one, but two, governments have lost elections because of unpopular policies put to the voters on nuclear power. Although these elections were some twenty years ago, the political fallout from them still haunts nuclear policy in the country as it attempts to combine a political culture based on open decision-making with complex technological problems. And the question of what to do with the plutonium created in Sweden's reactors - store it, sell it, swap it, loan it, burn or bury it - has been at the center of the long-running debate over the implications of operating a nuclear program in the country.

   The other key characteristic about Sweden's nuclear program is that the policy and lawmakers only embarked on the significant expansion of reactor construction after seeking social consensus over the strategy to deal with the radioactive waste arisings, including the destiny of the plutonium created in the spent fuel. In virtually all other countries the waste management strategies have been developed well after the nuclear programs were commissioned. However despite the forward planning Sweden has found it necessary to change the priorities initially presented to the public concerning waste - and plutonium - as political interests backing the continuation of nuclear power have made a come-back. The debate continues, but following Chernobyl and the emergence of climate change induced by global warming, it has changed its character from the early confrontations of the 1970s and early 1980s.

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