31 May 2016 |

Reject the application! Legal brief from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and MKG to the Environmental Court and SSM

On May 31, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNC, and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, MKG, submitted a brief to the Land- and Environmental Court, MMD, and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, on important issues in the review of the license application for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel at the Forsmark nuclear power plant. Since the suggested solution for the final repository may start to leak within 1 000 years, SSNC/MKG formally state that the license application should be rejected. SSNC/MKG demand that the Environmental Court and SSM must use the precautionary principle. Also, SSNC/MKG are critical to the fact that SSM wants to give permission to the license application, and afterward examine if the copper canister will function as intended. SSNC/MKG state that there is already enough scientific supporting that there is a large risk of the malfunction of the barrier system of copper and clay. Update: News on SSM's statement to the Land and Environmental Court is linked below.

The Land and Environmental Court, MMD, and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, review the nuclear industry’s license application for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel according to the Environmental Code, and the Nuclear Activities Act respectively. On January 29, 2016, the license application was announced as being complete enough for proper review on issues. Authorities, organisations, parties concerned and the civil society have been given the opportunity to submit comments on factual issues.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNC, and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, MKG, submitted their statement May 31 to both the Environmental Court and SSM. Mainly, the NGOs formally state that the license application should be rejected. If not, the Environmental Court shall order the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, i.e. the applicant, to complement the license application in accordance with the organisation’s previously legal brief of June 26, 2015 (see here).

Also, in accordance with their statements from the completion phase of the examination SSNC/MKG still insist that;

  • the Environmental Court shall deal with radiation safety issues; and
  • the methodology of deep boreholes shall be considered as an alternative for disposing of spent nuclear fuel, and thus be treated as an alternative methodology in the license application and in the environmental impact assessment.

SSNC/MKG consider that SSM:

  • shall make sure the license application is complemented with issues essential for the long-term safety of the final repository before a final view is given in the statement to the Government;
  • shall have a clear position towards the admissibility of the activity before the matter is submitted to the Government; and
  • in its statement to the Government, SSM shall reject the license application in accordance with the Radiation Protection Act.

Furthermore, SSNC/MKG base their rejection of the license application on the fact that:

1. the applicant has not verified that the chosen methodology for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, KBS, will function.
2. the long-term safety analysis is based on models and theoretical arguments, which are simplified and based on assumptions not scientific experimentally verified.
3. the applicant has not implement necessary scientific experiment to show if the barrier system of copper and clay will function as intended.
4. there is scientific evidence that the final repository’s barriers of copper and clay probably will fail and thus, leak radioactive substances possibly after only a few hundreds of years, and likely within 1 000 years.
5. with the chosen KBS methodology, a creditability scenario is that human and environment will be exposed to harmful radiation.
6. the applicant has not comprehensive present the negatively risks for the final repository during an ice age.
7. the precautionary principle must have an impact in the review since there are such considerable uncertainties with the chosen KBS methodology.
8. the permit shall not be given an expensive activity that is not going to function and be cancelled when there is a risk that the funds for management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste will run out.
9. the applicant has not examined and presented alternative methodologies in a sufficiently comprehensive and legal way.
10. the methodology of deep boreholes could be an environmentally safer and less expensive solution for final disposal, and in addition, the need for a long-term surveillance would be less necessary since the risks for human intrusion would decrease.
11. the applicant has not given an adequate description of how information on the final repository can be transferred to future generations, in order for surveillance over the final repository to be possible.
12. the applicant’s site selection process was not aimed to find the best site available for a final repository with the KBS methodology, and the selected site is not suitable since:

  • the site, the relatively dry mountain of Forsmark, is not selected in order for the barriers (of copper and clay) and the tunnels to function in the best way possible,
  • the site is situated in a geotectonic fault. This means that the stress from earthquakes and other motion of the ground, especially in conjunction with an ice age can destroy the repository.
  • the site is situated in an area of direct current electricity transmission over the Baltic Sea, which means higher risks for the final repository to be negatively affected.
  • the proposed site for the repository is adjacent to several Natura 2000 areas and the site itself would be a nature protected site if it was not for the plans for a repository.

13. the applicant has opted out sites not located near the coastal area, even though a location inland in a recharge area for regional groundwater flows could mean higher environmental long-term safety.
14. the applied formulation of the license application is in contrary to the Euratom Treaty since the application does not demonstrate how surveillance after the closure of the final repository will take place.
15. the high value of nature existing on the suggested site, including a number of red-listed species and species protected by the Habitats Directive’s appendix 4, in itself constitute a reason to reject the license application.
16. the ‘zero alternative’, with continued interim storage in the existing interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel (Clab), is of sufficient safety at least a hundred years to come, which means there is enough time to examine functioning alternative solutions for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel.
17. there is possibilities to further increase the safety of interim storage of spent nuclear fuel if the spent fuel from storage in pools, which require active cooling, are being moved to storage in an air-cooled container that have a passive safety.

In their statement, SSNC/MKG consider that for the review of a license application with the possibility of such huge impacts as in this case, it is important that the acquisition of knowledge that has taken place in order to produce the necessarily extensive documentation, has been done in a comprehensive and objective manner. However, much of the the documentation of the license application is under heavy questioning since many of the result the applicant has present comes from research from consultants and academic circles that are completely dependent to the applicant. For example, the applicant does not examine and present information about the KBS methodology in a proper and scientific way. This is of particular relevance in issues regarding copper corrosion in an oxygen-free environment, and how the result of copper and clay examined in the hard rock laboratory in cooperation with the company Clay Technology is presented.

Thus, despite several years of a completion phase, the applicant has not presented the documentation required for this kind of activity. In the environmental impact assessment (EIA), the applicant has not adequately managed the comments expressed in the consultation process. Therefore, the EIA should be rejected. Furthermore, SSNC/MKG consider the quality of the EIA is being too poor in order for the license application to be considered admissible. The poor EIA constitutes a procedural hindrance, and therefore the license application should be rejected.

It is not only the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and MKG that consider unresolved scientific issues on corrosion and other processes that may affect the copper canister’s integrity and thus the long-term environmental safety still exists. Both the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste and several professors and researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, have highlighted the problems with the copper canister in their legal brief to the Environmental Court. The Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste is also highlighting the alternative methodology of deep boreholes.

Following, the Environmental Court and SSM will submit the incoming legal briefs to the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, and the company will respond to these. Also, SSM will send its statement to the Environmental Court on June 30 at the latest. Then, we will find out the Authority’s view on the license application. SSM may consider the license application to be complete for now, and consider that it is OK to examine important issues such as the function of the copper canister afterward when permission of the final repository has been given. Update: News on SSM's statement to the Land and Environmental Court is linked below (in Swedish).

Links:

The SSNC’s and MKG’s legal brief to the MMD and SSM, 160531 >> (in Swedish)

Appendices (in Swedish):

1. Lista över yttranden från Naturskyddsföreningen och Miljöorganisationernas till kärnavfallsgranskning, MKG, till mark- och miljödomstolen och Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten i kompletteringsfasen >>

2. Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB, SKB, Försättsblad kompletteringsyttrande IV, den 24 september 2015 (ab 339) >>

3. Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, "Val av plats för slutförvarsanläggningen", Preliminär rapport den 17 november 2015 (inte diariefört – endast publicerat på SSM:s hemsida , dokumentnr. 13-3717) >> 

4. Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, "Kungörelse av SKB:s ansökningar om tillstånd enligt kärntekniklagen för slutförvaret respektive Clink", den 21 januari 2016 (Ärende SSM2011-1135 / SSM2015-279, dokumentnr. 16-156) >>

5. Olle Grinder, "Kritiska frågeställningar beträffande korrosion och säkerhet vid slutförvar av radioaktivt avfall i kopparkapslar", maj 2016 >>

6. Karl-Inge Åhäll, "Brister i redovisningen av viktiga metodvalsfrågor", maj 2016 >>

7. Jämförelse mellan KBS-metoden och metoden djupa borrhål april  2016, Karl-Inge Åhäll >>

8. SKI och SSI brev till SKB storregional grundvattenströmning den 22 oktober 2007 >>


News on MKG's website on SSM's statement to the MMD (in Swedish):
SSM vill att regeringen tillstyrker slutförvarsansökan trots problem med kopparkapslar, 160629 >> 

The application for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel has been announced as complete, 160129 >>

The Swedish Society for Nature conservation and MKG in their third statement, 150626 >>

Draft version in English of a report with the MKG and SSNC requests for complementary work >> 

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