Changes to Swedish law proposed to enable nuclear new build

12 January 2023

A proposal to amend Sweden's legislation on nuclear power has been presented by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari. The proposed changes would remove the current law limiting the number of reactors in operation to ten, as well as allowing reactors to be built on new plant sites, rather than just existing sites.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari announce the proposed legislative changes (Image:

In October 2022, Sweden's incoming centre-right coalition government adopted a positive stance towards nuclear energy, with the Christian Democrats, the Liberals, the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats releasing their written agreement on policies - referred to as the Tidö Agreement. With regards to energy, the agreement said the energy policy goal is "changed from 100% renewable to 100% fossil-free". In the Tidö Agreement, it is assumed electricity demand of at least 300 TWh in 2045, double the current demand.

The parties called for the removal of prohibitions in the Environmental Code to allow new reactors in other locations than today and to have more than ten reactors in operation at the same time. The agreement said necessary regulations should be developed to create the conditions for the construction and operation of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Sweden. In addition, the permitting process for nuclear power plants must be shortened.

The government has now formally proposed making amendments to the Environmental Code in order to achieve those aims.

"Right now, there is a transition to fossil-free where industries and transport are electrified," Kristersson said. "It requires much more clean electricity throughout the country. To cope with this, more of all fossil-free energy types are needed. With today's announcement, we want to make it possible to build more nuclear power plants in more places."

The proposed legislative amendments will now be out for consultation for three months and the bill is expected to enter into force in March 2024.

Sweden's six nuclear power reactors provide about 40% of its electricity. In 1980, the government decided to phase out nuclear power, but in June 2010 parliament voted to repeal this policy. The country's 1997 energy policy allowed ten reactors to operate longer than envisaged by the 1980 phase-out policy, but also resulted in the premature closure of the two-unit Barsebäck plant. In 2015, decisions were made to close four older reactors by 2020.

Ringhals 1 and 2 were closed at the end of 2020 and 2019, respectively - several years earlier than planned due to the economic impact of punitive taxes.

In June 2022, Vattenfall announced it was initiating a pilot study to assess the conditions for proceeding with a decision to build at least two SMRs adjacent to the Ringhals plant. The study is expected to be completed by around late-2023 or early-2024.

"Sweden needs more electricity. Fossil-free, cheap electricity in the right place, at the right time. It is needed for the sake of jobs, competitiveness and the green transition," said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Energy, Business and Industry Ebba Busch. "Nuclear power is a necessary basis in the energy mix that builds the Swedish energy system strong again."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News