Sweden - Plutonium Investigation n°14/15

Nuclear Capacities

   Nuclear Capacities Today Sweden has 12 nuclear reactor units based at four sites in the southern part of the country. There is also a research/plutonium production reactor built underground at ügesta, a Stockholm suburb, initially constructed to support Sweden's early nuclear weapons program. A further nuclear plant was built at Marviken on the east coast, but after a change of policy in 1970 it was converted to burn oil instead of uranium. The current capacity of the 12 reactors - 2 units at Barsebäck, 4 at Ringhals all on the west coast, and 3 each at Forsmark and Oskarshamn on the Baltic coast - is about 10,440 MW. In 1998 the nuclear program generated a record 70.47 TWh, up 5.3 % over the previous year, providing 45.75 % of the country's power output. Sweden exports electricity via the Nordic Nord Pool to Finland and Norway, and also to Denmark and Germany.

    Sweden originally had plans to reprocess the spent fuel from its reactors, but has generally favored alternative storage and direct disposal since the middle of the 1980s. The first commercial scale reactor at Oskarshamn-1 was ordered in 1965, and commissioned in 1972. Five further reactors were ordered in the 1960s: Ringhals-1 & 2 in 1968, and Forsmark-2, Oskarshamn-2 and Barsebäck-1 in 1969. The last reactors, Oskarshamn-3 and Forsmark-3, came on line in 1985. The reactors are operated by a mixture of one public utility, Vattenfall AB, and private companies Sydkraft AB (Sydsvenska värmekraft AB), FKA (Forsmarks Kraftgrupp AB) and OKG (Oskarshamns Kraftgrupp AB) (see box for details of ownership).

   Nuclear regulation in Sweden is both multi-layered and relatively open. The lead agency is SKI, with around 110 employees, which is an authority within the Ministry of Environment. SKI's board is appointed by the government and consists of politicians and experts, and is chaired by its Director General, currently Lars Högberg.╩Fees from the nuclear power industry finance SKI's operations. As with other Swedish nuclear authorities, SKI may also request funds from the government and parliament. SKI has three advisory committees, comprising: the Reactor Safety Committee, the Safeguards Committee and the Research Committee. The other important nuclear regulator is SSI - the State Radiation Protection Institute (Statens Strîlskyddsinstitut).

   In an inter-political party agreement concluded in December 1997 it was decided that the final date 2010 for closure of all reactors - a deadline which was defined after a national referendum in 1980 - would no longer be applied, in exchange for government starting the phase-out immediately. This was then adopted in the form of the Law on Nuclear Phase-Out (lafgen om kärnkraftsavveckling) by the Parliament in 1998. Essentially, the government now considers that technical life of a power reactor is 40 years, as opposed to the 25 years assumed at the time of the original phase-out legislation. The Law also gives the government the right to order an "early" shut-down of reactors if that is necessary for energy restructuring (energiomställningen), and allows the government to take into consideration the geographic location of the reactors in question.

   The Law on Nuclear Phase-Out, agreed in Parliament on 10 June 1997, prepared the ground for the government order of 5 February 1998 to shut down Barsebäck-1, a decision which has not yet been fulfilled, since the owners tied up the government in a complicated court case. Sydkraft, owner of Barsebäck via BKG, filed a complaint against the government decision and did win in the first instance. On 16 June 1999, the Supreme Administrative Court pronounced its judgement concerning the nuclear power station at Barsebäck. The Court ruling means, in the words of the Ministry of Industry, that the government's shut-down decision "stands firm". However, the reactor needs not to be closed before the end of November 1999. Björn Rosengren, Minister for Industry, declared in a press release: "It's gratifying that judicial clarity has now been created concerning the correctness of the Government's decision to close the first reactor at Barsebäck. This means that the conversion of the energy system can now be further pursued in accordance with the ambition of a majority of the Riksdag".

   The Social Democrat Party, currently in government in alliance with the Greens in Parliament following the election on 20 September 1998 - in which the party won its smallest ever percentage of the popular vote (38 %) - has stuck with its pre-electoral promise to move towards an early shut-down of the nuclear plant program.

Back to contents                 To be continued