Studies by the Swedish regulator securing knowledge of the repository: Waste & Recycling

05 October 2021

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has published a report on ways to inform future generations where radioactive waste has been disposed of and how it should be treated. The report was commissioned by the government to examine different methods of securing information and knowledge about the disposal of used nuclear fuel over a long period.

A render of how Sweden’s underground repository for used fuel could appear (Image: SKB)

In 2011, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency launched the Preserving Archives, Knowledge and Memory Across Generations (RK&M) project. The aim of this project was partly to develop the theoretical basis, and partly to develop concrete proposals, for the preservation of information and knowledge in the future.

The main recommendation of the RK&M project, which ended in 2018, was that the preservation of information and knowledge should apply a so-called systemic strategy. This, according to the final report, will involve the use of different methods, media and content, at different timescales with different actors and places. Nine categories of methods have been developed: the final documentation of the repository; memorial institutions; Markers; time capsules; culture, education and art; Knowledge management; monitoring arrangements; international mechanisms; and the legal basis.

SSM took the recommendations of the RK&M project as a starting point for writing its report. In addition to the completed RK&M project, SSM notes that there are several other international working groups that have worked or are working on issues regarding the preservation of information and knowledge.

In his report, SSM reviews methods that can be used so that future generations do not inadvertently affect final storage, resulting in damage to people and the environment.

No one-size-fits-all

According to SSM, the description of the methodology of the RK&M project and the various methods of preserving information and knowledge should serve as a basis for the development of a strategy for definitive geological repositories in Sweden for used nuclear fuel and d ‘other radioactive waste. He noted that no regulations required such a strategy to be developed in order to be able to make decisions on admissibility under the Swedish Environmental Code and licensing under the Nuclear Activities Act. However, he said such a strategy should be developed during the step-by-step process following a decision on a license under the Nuclear Activities Act. “Important factors in implementing a strategy in Sweden are that it is launched at an early stage and involves several different actors in the region with clear responsibilities,” he said.

“The goal of preserving information and knowledge after closure can be summed up as reducing the likelihood of unintended future human impact on the repository and giving future generations the opportunity to make informed decisions. concerning the repository and its content, ”the report states. said. “The latter may apply, for example, if in the future for reasons of resources it would be relevant to recover used nuclear fuel or to be able to take the appropriate measures to protect people and the environment in the event of an event. unforeseen if necessary. “

“The issue of preserving information and knowledge should not only be viewed as a technical issue but in a broader perspective; a societal challenge where technological development interacts with organizational, social and cultural aspects,” said SSM. “Social and cultural aspects may have greater potential to revive the memory of a repository far into the future than technical solutions allow. It is therefore important that the issue of information and knowledge preservation continues to integrate expertise from many different fields of science and to create platforms where nature, society and the humanities can be. encountered with the aim of increasing knowledge about how a complex message should be able to be conveyed in the future. “

“It is about preserving the information for future generations so that they have the possibility, for example, to take back radiologically deposited nuclear waste, if that becomes relevant,” said Annika Bratt, co-author of the report. . “It is a large-scale task that spans long periods of time. At the same time, the work must begin now.”

There is great public interest in what is the right solution, noted Carl-Henrik Pettersson, co-author of the report. “However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution as to how the preservation of information and knowledge should take place, but it is about implementing different methods that complement each other in different ways and thus offer good opportunities for the transmission of information and knowledge in the future. “

In the future, SSM considers that the issue is also relevant for other activities with long-lived hazardous waste, and sees the need for broad cooperation with other authorities. He says it is also important that the municipalities concerned have good opportunities to participate in the continuation of the work.

“The municipalities have a specific role insofar as it is in the municipalities that the involvement of the local community exists. Municipalities can contribute to the practical and concrete work needed to disseminate and impart information and knowledge, ”said Bratt.

Deposit plans

Swedish radioactive waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) submitted applications for the construction of Sweden’s first nuclear fuel depot and an encapsulation plant at SSM in March 2011. The integrated facility – the Clab’s encapsulation plant and interim storage facility in Oskarshamn – is mentioned in SKB’s Application as Clink. The request concerns the storage of 6,000 capsules with a total of 12,000 tonnes of radioactive waste at a depth of approximately 500 meters. SKB has also requested the extension of the storage capacity of the Clab facility from 8,000 tonnes of fuel currently to 11,000 tonnes.

In August, the Swedish government announced its decision to approve the extension of Clab’s existing interim repository for used fuel while continuing to review the final repository application.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

About Leslie Schwartz

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