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Nuclear Power? Yes Please Posts

The nuclear waste issue reaches a decision in Sweden, after 50 years.

Today, 27th of January 2022, the Swedish government approved the KBS-3 method for depositing nuclear waste in Sweden. This is a decision that has been 50 years in the making, and that created and shaped the debate on Swedish nuclear power in the 1970s.

“We need power, but where to get it from?”

After World War II, Sweden was building itself up as an industrial welfare nation. For that, we needed a reliable and ample supply of energy. But where to get it?

Historically, Sweden had been dependent on hydropower from the mighty Norrland rivers…

Stornorrfors, one of Sweden’s largest hydropower dams (image source: Wikipedia)

…and imported oil.

However, it was clear that this could not continue. The resistance to further exploit the Norrland rivers was massive. This was the first major environmental issue in Sweden, where people took to the streets to protect the environment. Soon it became clear that any talk of damming up the 4 untouched rivers would be political suicide.

Meanwhile, it was becoming painfully clear that using oil for energy production was causing environmental havoc, with acidification of rivers and lakes, cancerous hydrocarbons released into the cities, carbon dioxide threatening the climate. Yes, already in the 1960s, there was awareness that carbon emissions was a danger to the climate.

So what were the options?

  • Renewables, in the shape of wind, solar, and geothermal power
  • Nuclear power

When the government put out the question as a public enquiry, the result was — as then Prime Minister Olof Palme expressed it — “completely unanimous”, in that renewables could not play any major part before 1990. That was too late.

By process of elimination, nuclear power remained.

And so it was, 12 reactors were approved by Palme’s Social Democratic party government. By the late 1960s there was complete political unity on the issue: Sweden was to adopt nuclear power, for security in power supply, for the environment, for the climate.

The hunt for a profile issue

This unity would not last though. The Swedish system of governing is a multi-party system, divided into partisan politics by way of a left and a right bloc. The left bloc was comprised of, the Social Democratic Party and the — then called — Left Party Communists. The right bloc was led by the Centre Party, and also included the liberal People’s Party, the Christian Democrats and the Moderates.

The Centre Party — an ideologically green party — was looking for a profile issue to challenge the left bloc on. They found that issue when Swedish Nobel Prize laureate Hannes Alfvén in 1972 expressed concerns over nuclear waste. Alfvén and Centre Party leader Thorbjörn Fälldin met, and from these meetings the Centre Party crystalized a standpoint on nuclear power…

Danish activist Anne Lund designed the “Smiling Sun” logo in 1975 (image license: GFDL, image credit: OOA Fonden, WISE)

Palme as the incumbent Prime Minister and Fälldin as the challenger, debated nuclear power fiercely. And the primary argument against nuclear power was the issue of waste. Fälldin — before the 1976 general election — famously said that he would not “compromise with [his] conscience” while referring to the waste, and vowed to stop all further expansion of nuclear power in Sweden.

And lo and behold, the profile issue actually struck a chord with the electorate. For the first time in decades, since before WWII, Sweden had a right bloc government. Fälldin got to work on abolishing nuclear power in Sweden

A failed promise

Two years later — in the autumn of 1978 — Fälldin’s government fell. The reason for this demands explaining a peculiarity of the Swedish Instrument of Government.

As with most democracies, Swedish official power is divided into multiple entities. But where most nations split power in three, Sweden does it in four. Where others combine Executive and Administrative power, Sweden puts a firewall between these two.

The upshot of this is that Administration — which is largely apolitical — cannot be bossed around by the political Executive; Swedish ministers are practically forbidden from making administrative decisions.

Granting permits for nuclear power is an administrative decision. So revoking or preventing permits to build and operate nuclear power is something that a minister cannot do. Instead, this is the subject for an apolitical administrative authority. And apolitical administrative authorities do not care if you as a politician have election promises to fulfill.

Thus, the Centre Party’s plan for halting the expansion of nuclear power was to introduce a law that demanded anyone wishing to obtain a permit for nuclear power activities in Sweden to show an adequate proposal for dealing with waste. Fälldin was convinced — by Alfvén — that this was an unsolvable task.

However, little did he know that in 1976, two SOUs (“State Official Reports”) had pointed to the remarkable find of natural nuclear reactors in Oklo, Gabon, Africa, and shown that a deep geological repository was not just feasible but also very likely to be adequate.

The nuclear power companies applying for permits with the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate — the authority responsible for handing out nuclear power permits — referred to these reports, and other research papers from Gabon.

The Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate looked at this, and approved the permits.

Fälldin’s government suddenly had massive amounts of egg on their face. Feeling that they no longer had the vote of confidence by the Riksdag (Sweden’s unicameral parliament), the government resigned.

This was the beginning of the end of the — in this author’s opinion —only pragmatic argument against nuclear power.

A long and protracted end

As the reader is well aware, the 1970s and 80s were turbulent times for nuclear power.

The nuclear waste issue however, proceeded quietly. In 1984, a law was passed that established that the effort for creating a waste repository would be paid by the consumers. For many years, a levy on the electrical bill explicitly specified how much you as a consumer were paying to the Nuclear Waste Fund. This was counted at less than 1 öre per kWh (1 öre = 0.01 SEK, 1 SEK was valued at roughly 0.2 USD back then).

In close cooperation with first the Nuclear Power Inspectorate, later renamed to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), SKB, the company specifically created to engineer a solution for the waste, researched and designed what would later be presented as the KBS-3 solution.

In 2011, SKB submitted the proposal for approval.

SSM was the first toll gate. They asked for complementary research. SKB submitted that, and SSM passed the issue on.

Another toll gate was public approval. And in what seems a near bizarre twist to the story, the two counties proposed as sites for the repository, essentially fought each other over the issue, demanding to have the site located on their own grounds. Östhammar county won the battle, and was appointed as the site of the repository. Oskarhamns county got a “consolation prize” in the form of the encapsulation factory.

The third toll gate was the Land & Environment Court. They had little to say and swiftly approved the application.

Hence the application arrived at the final toll gate: the Swedish cabinet, and the desk of the Department for the Environment.

Just one small hitch there: the head of that department was a Green Party minister.

Quick rewind to 1978 again. The greens had just been humiliated on the issue of nuclear waste. Fälldin implored Palme to hold a referendum on the issue. Palme refused.

…until a pilot-operated relief valve jammed open in a brand-new unit at Three Mile Island.

Palme, seeing a nightmare of a summer leading up to the general election in September 1979, quickly agreed to the referendum, in order to remove the now politically radioactive issue from the table.

With the referendum, the greens again had high hope that the quick abolishment of nuclear power in Sweden would be achieved.

That did not happen. Instead, nuclear power was given a 30 year life-span in Sweden. The ideological greens were fuming at this, and quickly splintered out into a new party: the Environmental Party the Greens. First thing that went into the party programme was to declare nuclear power anathema.

Fast forward to 2021 again, and Green Party minister Per Bolund had on his table a paper to sign, a paper that — in effect — said that the Swedish government’s official position is that the nuclear power industry was right, and they did a great thing in solving the issue of waste, while the greens did nothing but fling dirt at them.

That paper remained unsigned for many months, and the political opposition began to accuse the government of stalling. Threats of constitutional hearings, even a vote of no confidence, were uttered.

The unexpected thaw

Then, suddenly, in late November 2021, the Green Party said “we are leaving the government”. The reason stated was domestic political issues, but the practical upshot of this was that a new minister for the environment was appointed, one that was not ideologically green.

The political opposition quickly swarmed the new minister — Annika Strandhäll — like disaster news on a nuclear event, and demanded a decision on the waste issue. Strandhäll delayed that decision over Yule 2021.

And — today — 27th of January 2022, the historical decision was announced…

KBS-3 is approved as a solution for high-level nuclear waste in Sweden.

50 years of waiting is over.

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“If the world were to adopt nuclear power, where would all of the waste go?”

A surprisingly good outreach platform has turned out to be, a Q&A site where people ask questions and let anyone answer. So I will be replicating some of my answers from there to here. Enjoy…

Nature showed us how to do it, and it works great!

This is a nuclear waste repository, that held waste for 2 billion years.

(image source)

Yes, you read that right: 2,000,000,000 years. That is 20,000 times more than what we consider to be adequate for a repository. And the only reason it is not longer than that is because…

a. that is how much time has passed since the waste was created

b. the waste has now decayed, completely. [1]

In the 1970’s, the Uranium ore find at Oklo, Gabon, Africa, gathered attention, because there was something “wrong” with the ore. It was as if the Uranium had already been used in a reactor.

As it turned out, it had indeed been in a reactor, a natural reactor. Billions of years back the isotope mix of Uranium was more like that we use in artificial reactors today. So all it needed was a bit of water to moderate the neutrons and — voilà! — nuclear fission, just like we do it today.

Nuclear fission means nuclear waste. These natural reactors also made waste. That meant a golden opportunity for us to examine what happened to the waste. The conclusion was astounding:

The waste stayed in place and moved less than 10 feet / 3 meters

This is despite the fact that the waste…

  • was not packaged in fuel bundles
  • was not encapsulated
  • was subjected to violent temperature swings (these reactors worked in cycles of a few hours)
  • was washed through by water for hundreds of thousands of years

The chief finding was that long-lived waste — the Transuraniums like Plutonium and Americium and other such Actinides — binds chemically to rock in a reducing environment and remains entirely immobile.

This is the key to why geological repositories work. Nature told us so. And that is why we are building repositories that way.

The Swedish KBS-3 method builds on the findings of Oklo and further research since the 1970’s. KBS-3 is already approved in Finland, and is in the process of being approved in Sweden.

Tom Scott visits the Finnish KBS-3 repository at Onkalo, Finland
The KBS-3 method, developed by SKB (image source)

KBS-3 — besides using the reducing environment of the bedrock — also adds the following barriers.

  • The fuel remains in the fuel rods, i.e. clad in Zirconium alloy. They are then placed in…
  • Cast iron holders. The cast iron ensures rigidity, toughness, and that the environment will remain reducing even if water enters the…
  • 2 inch / 50 mm thick corrosion resistant copper capsule that encapsulates the fuel bundles and their holder. That capsule is then surrounded by…
  • A layer of water absorbent Bentonite clay. The clay acts as soft padding to keep the capsule from being subjected to movements of the bedrock. It is also meant to be wet, because when it wets it swells to a pressure of 50 atmospheres, and is pressed into all the cracks and fissures around…
  • The bore hole, made 500 meters down into geologically stable bedrock, with a reducing environment and only small water movement.

The only thing that the Oklo reactors had was the reducing environment, and that alone held the waste in place for 2 billion years. KBS-3 will do the job.

So anyone that says there is no plan or no method or no site to deal with nuclear waste, is speaking — put in the plainest of the Queen’s English — complete and utter bollocks.


[1] The half-life of Plutonium-239 is: \[t_{1/2}= 24,100 y\]

So the tenth-life of Pu-239 is: \[t_{1/10} = t_{1/2} \left(\frac{ln(10)}{ln(2)}\right) \Rightarrow\]

\[t_{1/10} = 24,100 \cdot 3.32 \approx 80,000 y\]

So 2 billion years makes for…

\[2,000,000,000 / 80,000 = 25,000\]

…25,000 tenth-lives.

After about 110 or so tenth-lives, the original amount would have had to fill out the entirety of the known observable universe in order to have one atom left.

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Välkommen till 2000-talet Katarina Mazetti…

Skall man sammanfatta Katarina Mazettis artikel “Piskor, Tjernobyl och hur du genomskådar den offentliga lögnen” på några få ord så är “Oavsiktlig ironi” ett rätt passande omdöme… för just “offentlig lögn” är väl just det man kan kalla hennes typ av raljant orerande.

Hon pratar om “Vinklad information som inte går att bevisa” och jämför det med Orwells Newspeak… vilket är ironiskt för hela hennes artikel är just detta. Tja om man nu kan kalla det för “information” för det finns inte ett enda stycke fakta i artikeln som hon hänvisar till. Enda undantaget är att hon hävdar att en av linjerna i folkomröstningen om kärnkraft 1980 var ett “ja” när i själva verket folket bara fick rösta på avveckling, avveckling och snabb avveckling.

Detta för oss tillbaks till rubriken… “hur man avslöjar en offenlig lögn”. Svaret på frågan på den frågan – ett svar som inte hon inte ens ger i artikeln utan det bara antyds att den långa svadan i överlägsen ton på något sätt är ett sådant avslöjande – heter: Internet. Välkommen till 2000-talet Katarina. Där duger det inte med att du får in en artikel i en tidning och sedan är den “sanning” så länge som dig slänger dig med retoriska “frågor”, vinklade antydningar och felaktig information; därför att jag som läsare kan inom en minut kolla upp dina påståenden.Och som Svenska Wikipedia upplyser oss – med fullständiga citat av valsedlarna – fick den del av Svenska folket som faktiskt ville ha kärnkraft inget “Ja” alternativ att rösta på.

Ironiskt också att Katarina Mazetti utkräver ansvar av “kärnkraftskramarna” när det är hon och andra kärnkraftshatare som står med skägget i brevlådan. De fick allt det de ville ha: en riggad omröstning som bara kunde få “avveckling” som resultat, ett beslut i Riksdag om avveckling med slut-datum, en tankeförbudslag som gjorde det straffbart med böter eller fängelse att ens skriva på papper vad en ny kraftreaktor skulle kosta i Sverige, en avvecklingslag som gav Regeringen rätt att – utan att tillfråga Riksdagen – stänga reaktorer. Ni fick allt ni villa he… alla förutsättningar att infria era löften om “Sol vind och vatten, gröna berg och djupa ha-aa-av!”.

35 år senare… hur långt har de kommit? Inte ett dugg på vägen. Koldioxidhalterna nu över 400ppm och två-gradersmålet börja ligga rejält risigt till. Under tiden har kärnkraftsbolagen nu lämnat in ansökan om att få bygga ett fungerande, säkert slutförvar. De tog sitt ansvar, men det gjorde inte avvecklingivrarna utan de fortsätter charaden och hävdar att “snart” är kärnkraften utbytt… vänta bara lite till. Men hur länge kan vi vänta innan klimatet är förstört på rikigt?

Och för övrigt finns det gott om kvinnor och/eller feminister som – på ett långt mer övertygande och vältaligt sätt än Katarina Mazetti raljanta artikel – förklarar varför ett fritt och informerat deltagande i BDSM är avsevärt mycket bättre feminism än hennes arrogantna och argumentslösa avfärdande av dessa människors val.

Hur avslöjar man en “offentlig lögn”, så som Katarina Mazetti’s artikel “Piskor, Tjernobyl och hur du genomskådar den offentliga lögnen”? Det är enkelt: läs lögnen och sök svar på frågan “stämmer det hon säger verkligen?”. Med en dator och internetkoppling blir det förbluffande enkelt.

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A good thrasing of S&M

cherry-picking   S&M (Sherman and Mangano) is in need of a good spanking after dubious (is there any other kind?) cherry-picking with their new Fukushima toomfoolery published in Counterpunch. Fortunately we don’t need to dig into their muck here because it has already been done, I recommend everyone to head over to Numbers and Opinions and get a lesson in how desperate S&M are becoming. Must be hard to have spent a lifes work portraying the horrible nuclear disaster and when it actually happens people have the audacity to simply refuse to drop dead.

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Twitter “diskussion” med Lise Nordin

Dags att väcka stället till liv igen…

Ikväll gav sig NPYP ut på Twitter igen och hamnade i diskussion med Lise Nordin, miljöpartiets inrikespolitiska talesperson.

Diskussionen gick ett tag… men sedan försöker Lise helt plötsligt spåra ur den med två klassiker på raken:

Billigt Lise… riktigt billigt. Sedan när är argumenten beroende av vem som framställer dem?

Och sedan lyckas du inte – av någon outgrundlig anledning – göra något så enkelt som att klicka på @NPYP och se varifrån postningarna kommer.

Nåja, du frågade, så detta är svaret: Nuclear Power Yes Please – NPYP – är ett nätverk av människor som tycker att kärnkraft är en bra sak att ha med i en bred, ren och hållbar energimix. Den som satt bakom spakarna på Twitter-kontot ikväll var jag – Michael Karnerfors – en av grundarna.

Så… nu kan diskussionen forsätta Lise….

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Kickstarter for a demonstration of a pump in lead cooled reactors


Professor Janne Wallenius of the Reactor Physics division at The Royal Institute of Technology has started a kickstarter for funding a demonstration of a new material they have developed. The main issue with lead cooled reactors is corrosion of steel structures and erosion of moving parts (like pump impellers) and Wallenius team has developed a new kind of steel that might solve those issues.  What is needed is a larger demonstration of the materials properties and that is what the kickstarter is about.

It is an interesting way to fund research and well worth spreading the word about, so check it out!

A lead pump for SEALER: Swedish Advanced Lead Reactor

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Björn Borg goes pro nuclear?

What is this, the fancy clothes brand from the famous tennis player decides to make a statement in the debate about nuclear power? A closer scrutiny reveals that it says “nudeclear”, not “nuclear”. The press release is anyhow a mind game that may provoke some people:

 If Björn Borg could decide, the whole world would overflow with nudeclear power; a world where we all live in a sensual high radiation zone

So what to make of it, has the PR people of Björn Borg gone completely insane, or is it just business as usual? Apparently it seems to be the latter. Half a year ago they had a campaign called Weapons of Mass Seduction where somebody had the task to drop 450 pairs of underwear over the North Korean capital Pyongyang. And it was accomplished.



From NPYP we find the ripoff of the name to be amusing and would like to get hold of some of the “Nudeclear waste” stickers seen on the barrels in the picture above. Besides that we do not think it will affect the nuclear debate in any way, but it is promising that a company dares to play this kind of game, maybe the issue of nuclear power isn’t that controversial after all.

Are you provoked? Here is our recommendation:
* If you are anti nuclear: Relax, it’s just underwear!
* If you are pro nuclear: Have a good laugther!

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