The suspicions of misplaced nuclear waste have triggered a stern reprimand from Environment and Climate Minister Per Bolund, and highlighted the necessity of a thorough and costly re-inspection and repositioning of the radioactive material.
It’s believed that 2,800 barrels of radioactive waste were stored incorrectly in a warehouse in Forsmark, Uppland County, following a stock control inspection.
“The long-term safety is based on the right waste being placed in the right final repository,” Peter Selting, safety manager at the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, told national broadcaster SVT.
The barrels in question contain historical waste from the 70s and 80s that comes from the healthcare and defence industries, among others. While its content is said not to pose a threat to humans or nature today, it could very well do so in the future if placed and handled incorrectly.
To ensure that the content does not harm people or the environment, the barrels must now be inspected and repositioned. However, it is as of year unclear who will pay for the work, which a costly and very time-consuming measure.
“There are discussions going on about how the cost should be distributed between the parties, I don’t even want to anticipate that discussion,” Selting said.
The news of the misplaced radioactive barrels made Environment and Climate Minister Per Bolund of the Green Party see red.
“This is an example of how incredibly serious it can get when you fail to properly take care of life-threatening waste,” Bolund told SVT, condemning it as “irresponsible”.
While the government has commissioned a thorough review of the situation, Peter Selting of Swedish Nuclear Fuel Management said he is not worried that more misplaced waste may appear.
“We have no indications that there is more historical waste that we would have similar concerns with,” he said, assuring that his organisation has processes in place to ensure that the waste meets its specifications.
The coastal town of Forsmark some 100 kilometres north of Stockholm is home to a nuclear power plant and the Forsmark repository for low and intermediate-level nuclear waste, that contains over 30,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste.