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Sweden: nuclear waste fee tripled

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended a tripling of the fee paid by the country's nuclear power industry towards paying for management of the country's nuclear waste.

SSM has been tasked with assessing what level of fee Sweden's nuclear generators should be required to pay into the country's Nuclear Waste Fund for the next three years. It might be noted that the SSM working group is something new. Previously responsibility for setting the fee was delegated to a single official in the regulatory authority.

Basing its assessment on information gathered from the relevant organisations - including cost estimates from the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co (SKB) - SSM has recommended to the government that the fee should be set at 3 öre per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 1 öre per kWh. (1 öre is worth approximately $0.001) According to SSM, much of the increase is down to new estimates from SKB indicating that the remaining costs of the country's planned final repository for used nuclear fuel have grown by about SEK 18 billion ($2.7 billion) from previous estimates made in 2008. SSM also says it believes that SKB has underestimated future costs, and it has adjusted the proposed fee increase to reflect this.

SSM economist Peter Stoltz described the rise as a "large increase", but said it was necessary to ensure that the state should not be forced to bear the costs of nuclear waste management and decommissioning, which are the responsibility of the nuclear industry. SSM has submitted its proposals to the Swedish government, which will make the final decision on the level of the fee.

The rise in the fee is now being protested vehemently by the nuclear industry and its allies in the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA). “A blow to the nuclear industry”, they say. "And a measure that strikes against Sweden’s ruling coalition’s commitment to a stable, predictable policy climate on energy. What is more, the fee will undermine the country’s ability to meet its climate commitments", which the protesters say should come from greater reliance on (more) electricity.

The Swedish Nature Conservation Association and MKG, an affiliate organization specialized in studying nuclear waste management, applaud the proposal, pointing out that the working group charged to review the financing of nuclear waste management have thoroughly studied the prospective costs and actually recommended an even higher  hike in the fee.  The proposed increase, they point out, is due to a failure to raise the fee levied on nuclear power producers in recent years -- despite awareness that projected costs have risen. In real terms, the rise only reinstates the rate owners of nuclear reactors paid in the mid-1990s.

In a rebuttal of an opinion piece signed by industry spokespersons and members of the IVA in Sweden’s second national newspaper (2 November), the  Nature Conservation Association and MKG point out: “The principal component in the ruling coalition’s agreement on nuclear energy is that there should be no public subsidization of nuclear energy. That is precisely what the proposed increase in the fee would achieve. Future taxpayers should not have to bear the costs of the waste and cleaning up after nuclear power. That is properly the power companies´ responsibility. Clearly, the Government must approve the well-researched proposal of the regulator.”

Source: World Nuclear News, 10 October 2011 / WISE Sweden, 10 November 2011
Contact: WISE Sweden

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