The application has just been submitted to authorities. What is in your thoughts now?
“It feels very good that we have reached this important milestone in
What happens now?
“Now follows the review of our application. Of great importance will, of course, be the confirmation that The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has checked that all necessary information is included the application. We expect to get that message within approximately one month. That will be our first indication that we are on track; that all information is there for execution of deep and thorough review.”
What part has the division of responsibilities between industry, authorities and legislators played?
”I believe it has been a strength that industry has had a clear task to solve the problem. When we began, we had right from the beginning a mix of experienced people from the industry, among them some who had built reactors. We had outgoing academics and, don't forget, strong authorities, which allowed us – in contrast to the American way – to own the mission. This has been a crucial success factor, I am sure. I also want to talk here about our owners, the nuclear industry, who have shown confidence in our approach. They have not tried to micro-manage our work or to stress a quick solution to this issue.”
Opinion polls have shown that SKB has a strong local support in both affected municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar.
”The main reason, I believe, is that we have been there for a long time, and we have acted in a fashion that renders us respect. Obviously we have focused on creating good relations at all levels, and tried to be open with information. We have met people in their homes, around their kitchen tables, and we have opened our facilities for visitors. It has been crucial to take people's questions and worries seriously.”
The important question is, of course, will SKB’s suggestion for final disposal be safe?
”Yes, it will be safe! It is a very robust system, with a great location and a thoroughly researched method. If we get our permissions, and we are allowed to build according to our plans and with our suggested safety measures in place, it will be safe.”
During the years, the suggested methods for final disposal have been criticized. How have you reacted to that?
”We have nothing against critical questions or views. It is part of our job to accept, want to listen to, and to handle them. When conclusions are drawn on misleading and even false information, then of course we need to respond to that.”
SKB has sometimes been the subject of international praise for its way of working. How has that affected your work?
”It is stimulating to get positive attention. It is also good for Sweden, along with a few other countries, to take the lead in such an important issue. We have partners around the world and our international consultants in “SKB International” have lots of work.
There are some differences in the world, mainly in regards of the choice between direct disposal and reprocessing; however, we also have lots
in common, and all major programs include geological disposal in
What is your most important advice to programs for final disposal around the world?
”Keep a clear division of responsibilities, and keep to the chosen roles in the process, and expect everything to take time. There are no quick-fixes in regards of nuclear fuel. Many parts have to mature – among them confidence in the process among politicians. In Sweden this has taken us 30 years. And we have had clear ´game rules´ with everything in order: legislation, funding, responsibilities, and an on-going review of research.”