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Swedes to stash spent nuclear fuel for 100,000 years


Swedish officials have approved plans to bury about 8000 tonnes of highly radioactive nuclear waste 500 metres below the ground in the bedrock.


Sweden's government has given the go-ahead for the building the a storage facility to keep the country's spent nuclear fuel safe for the next 100,000 years.


Nuclear nations have grappled with what to do with the spent fuel since the world's first nuclear plants came on line in the 1950s and 1960s, while the Kimba region in western South Australia looms as a storage site for low to intermediate waste generated from research and medical activities.

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that there is about 370,000 tonnes of highly radioactive, spent nuclear fuel in temporary storage around the globe.


Sweden's Environment Minister Annika Strandhall told reporters at a news conference:

"Our generation must take responsibility for nuclear waste. This is the result of 40 years of research and it will be safe for 100,000 years."
"The solution for the final storage of spent nuclear fuel - through that, we ensure that we can use our current nuclear power as a part of the transition to becoming the world's first fossil-free, developed nation."

Sweden's nuclear power plants have produced about 8000 tonnes of highly radioactive waste - including spent fuel - since they started operating in the 1970s.


The plan is to bury the waste - and the fuel that reactors will use until they shut down some time in the 2040s - 500 metres down in the bedrock near the Forsmark nuclear plant.


After about 70 years, when the tunnels are full, they will be packed with bentonite clay to keep out water and the facility sealed up.


Sweden's decision comes amid renewed interest in nuclear power, seen by many countries as an essential transition stage in ending reliance on fossil fuels and paving the way for the electrification of society.


The European Union, for example, plans to class some new atomic power plants as "green".


Swedes voted in 1980 to phase out nuclear power but shifting community attitudes have seen Sweden's main political parties do a deal on nuclear power in 2016, agreeing that six existing reactors could continue to operate and that up to 10 new reactors could be built at existing sites.


The cost of new plants, however, is widely seen as making them uneconomical unless a future government agrees to generous subsidies.


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