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Proposals would remove limits on reactor construction New legislation being put forward by Sweden’s centre-right coalition government removes obstacles to the potential construction of small modular reactors and will help the country in “reaching a climate neutral society with high robustness”, the secretary-general of the Swedish Atomic Forum said.

Carl Berglöf said on social media that the legislation will remove from existing law the maximum limit of 10 reactors. It will also remove a clause that says new reactors can only be built at existing site. “This proposal paves the way for SMRs in Sweden,” he said.

Mr Berglöf said that specifically, the government wants to remove article 6a of chapter 17 (“article 17.6a”) in the country’s environmental act. This article prohibits the government from giving permit to a reactor that is not replacing an existing reactor that has been permanently shut down.

The article was introduced in 2011 when new nuclear power units were allowed, but only they replaced an existing unit. The purpose was to secure a “controlled generation shift” of the current reactor fleet, but not allow further reactors, Mr Berglöf said.

The End Of Article 17.6a And What It Means

Article 17.6a puts a limit on 10 reactors in Sweden and they must be built at existing sites, of which there are six. This means only existing operators could build new reactors. However, if they use their remaining allocation of four plants for SMRs they will not be able to build large-scale nuclear in the future. “They consume their ticket,” Mr Berglöf told NucNet.

The existing geographical limit prevents the use of SMRs for purposes other than electricity generation. Industrial heat and hydrogen are typically needed at locations other than existing nuclear sites, such as industrial areas, mines or close to cities for district heating.

And since only existing utilities can invest in new nuclear, other investors are excluded from the nuclear market in Sweden. “With this article removed, companies such as Fortum or others may invest in new nuclear in Sweden,” Mr Berglöf said.

Electricity demand in Sweden might double by 2040. “Thus, there is a need for increasing all available low-carbon power sources,” Mr Berglöf said. “A ‘controlled generation shift’ of nuclear will most likely not be sufficient to meet future demand.”

The proposed legislation was announced earlier this week by prime minister Ulf Kristersson as part of plans to boost electricity production and improve energy security,

PM Backing Move Towards New Nuclear

“We have an obvious need for more electricity production in Sweden,” Kristersson told a news conference. “What we are doing today is changing legislation to allow for the construction of more nuclear reactors at more places.”

Kristersson has made expanding nuclear power generation a key goal for his right-wing government, seeking to reverse a process of gradual reactor closures that has left the country relying more heavily on intermittent renewables.

When forming his three-party coalition last year, Kristersson signalled an expansion of nuclear power, which previous Swedish governments had started to phase out. In October, he said Sweden’s goal on electricity production would change from “100% renewable” to “100% fossil-free,” which leaves room for nuclear energy.

The three centre-right parties secured a majority in parliament after the 11 September elections with the help of the Sweden Democrats, a far-right party that has entered the political mainstream after years of being treated as a pariah by the other parties.

In October the government said it wanted to build new reactors and would ask state-run utility Vattenfall to plan and procure new nuclear power stations – potentially making the country one of an increasing number turning to commercial reactors as a source of low-carbon, baseload energy supply.

New Reactors ‘Must Be Built Where They Do Most Good’

Romina Pourmokhtari, the minister in charge of climate and environment, said the new reactors may be smaller and must be built where they do the most good.

“We also see that other countries are building small reactors, instead of a few large ones,” Pourmokhtari told reporters. “The legislation must be adapted to new technology.”

In June, Vattenfall said it will be starting work on a pilot study on the feasibility of deployment of at least two small modular reactor (SMR) units at the site of the Ringhals nuclear power station.

The company also said it plans to invest about $215m (€200m) in its nuclear operations in Sweden to ensure plants remain well-equipped to supply 2stable and safe baseload power well into the future”.

Sweden has six commercial nuclear power units in operation at three sites: Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals. According to International Atomic Energy Agency data, nuclear energy provided about a third of the country’s electricity generation in 2021.

Vattenfall is majority owner of three operational reactors at Forsmark and two at Ringhals. Sweden’s other operational nuclear unit is Oskarshamn-3, owned by OKG.

Swedes have debated nuclear power for decades, but the energy source has garnered popular support recently amid the Ukraine war and an ongoing power crunch.

A survey last year suggested support for the use of nuclear power in Sweden is at record levels with 56% saying they support the construction of new reactors if needed.

More than eight out of 10, or 84%, want to continue to use nuclear power or, if needed, build more reactors, while only one out of 10 want to close nuclear power “through political decisions”.

Sweden has six commercial nuclear power units in operation at three sites: Forsmark (pictured), Oskarshamn and Ringhals.

Date: Friday, 13 January 2023
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