© istockphoto.com/ Roland Magnusson
Schwedische Flagge

Nuclear energy in Sweden (15.08.2023)

• Sweden operates a total of six nuclear power plants (NPPs) at Ringhals, Forsmark and Oskarshamn, which together cover about 40% of the country's electricity generation.
• In October 2022, the government asked the operator Vattenfall to examine the possible restart of Ringhals 1 and 2 and to prepare for the construction of new reactors. In addition, lifetime extension until 2060 is being examined for Ringhals 3 and 4.
• The operator of the decommissioned Barsebäck NPP is considering building a new NPP near the existing site.
• A power increase of 100 megawatts (MW) is currently being implemented for Forsmark 1.
• Regarding the development and use of small modular reactors (SMRs), the country has concluded several cooperation agreements with companies and commissioned a pilot study.

Status quo of electricity generation

Sweden generated around 163 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2020. The largest share of this was generated by hydropower and nuclear energy. Electricity generation from hydropower can fluctuate strongly due to seasonal influences – depending on the amount of precipitation – and ranges from 79 TWh in 2000 to 62 TWh in 2018.

Anzahl der schwedischen KKW und deren Durchschnittsalter und Strommix für 2022
Anzahl der schwedischen KKW und deren Durchschnittsalter und Strommix für 2022

[Wir nutzen die Zahlen der International Energy Agency (IAE), die für Schweden den Stand 2022 wiedergibt. Tagesaktuelle Erzeugungsdaten nach Energiequelle finden sich auf der Seite Electricity Maps.]

Political and legal framework conditions

After the parliamentary elections, the new coalition government changed its targets for Sweden's energy policy from “100% renewable” to “100% fossil fuel free” in the so-called Tidö Agreement in October 2022. The strategy paper also calls for improving conditions for investment in nuclear energy, including the construction of new nuclear power plants.

To this end, Vattenfall is to start planning new nuclear power plants at Ringhals and other suitable sites.

Sites in Sweden
Standorte Schweden

In addition, the restart of decommissioned reactors (concerns Ringhals 1 and 2) should be made possible by law, as should the operation of more than ten reactors at the same time. It would be required to shorten the licensing procedure for nuclear power plants. In addition, a special provision will be included in the Environmental Code stating that licensing matters related to new nuclear power plants must be given high priority. The Radiation Safety Authority (Swedish: Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) has the task of submitting proposals on how the licensing procedure for new nuclear power plants can be significantly shortened.

With regard to SMRs, the Tidö Agreement states that appropriate specifications will be developed that create the conditions for the construction and operation of SMRs in Sweden.

Current plans and projects

Large NPPs. In June this year, Vattenfall announced that it would conduct a pilot study to examine the conditions for a decision to build at least two nuclear power plants near the Ringhals power plant. The study is expected to be completed around the end of 2023 or early 2024.

SMRs. In Sweden, Kärnfull Next, a subsidiary of Kärnfull Future AB, became the first company in Scandinavia in March 2022 to develop SMR projects. Kärnfull Next will work together with GE Hitachi (GEH) towards the deployment of the GEH's BWRX-300 SMR. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two companies for this purpose. A letter of intent was also signed with the Finnish utility Fortum at the end of 2022 to explore opportunities for SMR development in Sweden.

In February 2021, the Swedish subsidiary of the energy company Uniper signed an agreement with the developer of the LeadCold SMR and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) with the aim of building a demonstration plant at the Oskarshamn site by 2030. It is envisaged that the LeadCold SEALER SMR will generate between 3 to 10 MW over a period of 10 to 30 years without the need for refuelling.

In June 2020, Vattenfall announced that it was conducting a pilot study to examine the construction of at least two SMRs adjacent to the Ringhals nuclear power plant. If the outcome is positive, the first SMR in Sweden could be commissioned in the early 2030s to replace the Ringhals 1 and 2 units, which have been shut down.
In December 2022, the French utility EdF and the Finnish company Fortum signed a framework cooperation agreement to jointly explore opportunities for collaboration on the use of SMRs and large nuclear reactors.

On behalf of the government, the Swedish regulatory authority SSM had also been investigating since August 2022 how the legal framework for nuclear power should be further developed and what further measures might be necessary for the expansion of nuclear power in Sweden. It presented its final report in August 2023. In it, it proposes, among other things, removing the limitation on the number of reactors, allowing more flexibility for different reactor types and sizes as well as for new market players, and revising and simplifying the licensing review. In this context, it also states that the legal requirements that exist today are largely applicable to new reactor technologies and equally demands that further research is necessary regarding the adaptation of legislation with regard to emergency protection, etc.

Uranium processing

Westinghouse operates a fuel fabrication plant in Västerås, which produces about 400 tonnes of fuel for pressurised and boiling water reactors annually and supplies numerous European countries. The fuel fabrication plant also produces fuel assemblies for Russian-designed reactors (among others for Ukraine).