Obstacles to new nuclear in Sweden cleared

December 4, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Aerial view of Sweden’s parliament building, Riksdagshuset, in Stockholm. (Photo: Arild Vågen/Wikipedia)

Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, has approved legislative amendments from Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s government that will remove the country’s prohibition on new reactor construction at sites other than Sweden’s three current nuclear plants—Forsmark, Ringhals, and Oskarshamn—and do away with the limitation on the number of simultaneously operating reactors, currently capped at 10.

The amendments enter force on January 1.

“The Riksdag shares the government’s assessment that fossil-free electricity from nuclear power will also continue to play a role of central importance in the Swedish energy mix,” the legislative body said in a statement following the November 29 vote. “The main reasons for this are an expected greater demand for electricity in combination with the fact that fossil fuels have to be phased out, particularly for climate reasons. Nuclear power also contributes to the stable and predictable functioning of the Swedish power system.”

This March, citing a SOM Institute at Gothenburg University survey, Bloomberg reported record high support in Sweden for nuclear—56 percent, up from 42 percent a year earlier. (In 2009, Sweden reversed a nearly three-decade-long nuclear energy phase-out policy.)

Background: The Riksdag in June endorsed a proposal in the government’s spring amending budget to change Sweden’s 2040 climate goal of 100 percent renewable electricity production to 100 percent fossil fuel–free electricity production.

The vote was welcome news for Kristersson, who had declared in a speech before the Riksdag the previous October, “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.”

Also in June, Westinghouse Electric Company announced the signing of memoranda of understanding with Finnish state-owned energy company Fortum—operator of the two-unit Loviisa nuclear plant—to explore the possibilities of developing and deploying AP1000 and AP300 reactor projects in the two Nordic nations.

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

The report identified “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,” the SSM said.

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