Swedish regulator proposes framework development for nuclear power

August 10, 2023, 9:31AMNuclear News
The Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden. (Photo: Daniel Kihlgren)

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has issued a final report to the Swedish government regarding its investigation into how the regulatory framework for the country’s nuclear power might be improved.

The report identifies “a need for development of the regulatory framework for new reactor designs, based both on established and more advanced technologies,” according to an August 9 press release from the nuclear regulator. In addition, “an analysis has also been made of the prerequisites for licensing, including review of the same reactor type for possible construction at several sites, and how this can be affected by international cooperation and harmonization,” SSM said.

An interim report by the agency had been presented to the government on February 28, focused, according to a March 1 release, “on the conditions for continuing to operate existing nuclear power and the need for legislative changes that the authority sees that may affect the conditions for the use of new nuclear power, based on known, as well as new, reactor technology. Today, [SSM] does not see any obstacles to continuing to operate existing nuclear power. Sweden has legislation in force for existing nuclear power reactors that allows operation as long as the plants are safe.”

From the top: “With the existing proposal for a new nuclear act and the added proposals that the authority is now presenting, we see that a possible licensing process for new nuclear reactors can be made more efficient without any reduction in the required level of safety,” said Michael Knochenhauer, SSM’s acting director general. “We also propose that a process for early assessment of new reactor technology is implemented in Sweden. Together with increased international cooperation, a process for prelicensing review can contribute [to] the authority’s ability and readiness to perform licensing activities in an efficient manner and reduces the risk that fundamental issues or impediments to grant a permit are identified late in the design process.”

Aino Obenius Mowitz, SSM project manager, added, “The requirements are mainly performance based and technology neutral and can therefore to a large extent be applied to most types of reactors, although certain adjustments and additions may be needed, especially for other types of reactors than light water reactors.”

Recommendations: The following points are among the report’s proposals:

  • Removing restrictions on the number of reactors in operation.
  • Increasing flexibility in the legal framework for different reactor technologies and models.
  • Clarifying and simplifying the licensing process, for instance, by removing double application of the environmental code.
  • Extending and clarifying the SSM’s mandate to decide on permits and regulations.
  • Enhancing international cooperation and opportunities for building knowledge on new reactor technologies, for example, by introducing a prelicensing review process.

In case you missed it: In June, Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, endorsed a proposal in the government’s spring amending budget to change the country’s 2040 climate goal of 100 percent renewable electricity production to 100 percent fossil fuel–free electricity production.

The vote was welcome news for Sweden’s current center-right government, which has announced some ambitious plans for nuclear. Last October, in a speech before the Riksdag, newly elected prime minister Ulf Kristersson declared, “The conditions for maintaining, developing, and expanding Swedish nuclear power will be radically improved, so as to meet the massive need for clean Swedish electricity for both households and the green transition.”

Much less welcome news, however, was delivered just last week by international energy firm Uniper, majority owner of Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear plant and minority shareholder in the Nordic nation’s two other nuclear facilities, Forsmark and Ringhals. On August 1, chief executive officer Michael Lewis said that while Uniper intends to keep its current reactors, calling them “a key part in making Uniper sustainable, both financially and environmentally,” the company “will not invest any further in nuclear power.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Uniper is based in Germany.

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