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Sweden Should Assess Contribution Of Nuclear To Energy Security, Says IEA Report

By David Dalton
10 April 2019

Sweden Should Assess Contribution Of Nuclear To Energy Security, Says IEA Report
The Ringhals nuclear power station, where two reactors are scheduled for closure. Photo courtesy Vattenfall.

10 Apr (NucNet): Sweden should assess the contribution of nuclear power up to 2040 and the impact of potential early closures on the country’s energy security, a report by the International Energy Agency says.

The report says nuclear power has operated efficiently in Sweden, at high availability and load factors. In the past decade, nuclear has averaged 40% of the electricity generated in Sweden and together with hydropower has contributed to the low-carbon intensity of Swedish electricity generation, and to the cost-effectiveness of electricity provision and stability of electricity prices.

Nuclear power plants provide a range of system services and guarantee the majority of the inertia of the electricity grid, which helps to maintain grid stability, the report says.

But it warns that the long-term outlook for nuclear power in Sweden is uncertain with new investment in the sector “extremely unlikely” in the medium term.

The report notes, however, that positive initiatives in terms of energy policy have provided more certainty to the nuclear industry.

Energy policy agreed in 2016 abolished a nuclear capacity tax and endorsed an existing regulation that said there would be no forced phaseout of existing nuclear capacity and no ban on new nuclear capacity at existing nuclear sites.

“Nuclear power generates around 40% of the total electricity in the country, but the operators, faced with the costs of post-Fukushima safety upgrades and low prices on the Nordic electricity market, have struggled to remain competitive,” the report says.

The IEA said six of Sweden’s eight commercial nuclear units will make the required large investments to refurbish and implement post-Fukushima safety upgrades. These are expected to continue to operate until the early 2040s, with two units – at Ringhals – scheduled to close.

In 2015 Vattenfall announced a decision to permanently shut down the two oldest reactors at the four-unit Ringhals in 2019 and 2020 instead of 2025, as previously planned. This decision was motivated by the declining profitability and the high investments required to keep the plants in operation beyond 2020.

Operators are planning to undertake significant investments in the six remaining units to comply with post-Fukushima requirements. These units are expected to be operating for up to 60 years. The entire nuclear capacity in Sweden is expected to be shut down permanently between 2040 and 2045.

The report says Sweden should continue its progress towards the licensing and construction of the final repository for spent nuclear fuel at Forsmark and ensure that sufficient storage is available in the existing interim storage facility in case of delays in licensing or construction.

It says the government should ensure that the required human resources will be available for the nuclear power sector.

In 2016 Sweden set the target of a net zero-carbon economy by 2045. To achieve this, Sweden aims for a 100% share of renewables in electricity generation by 2040. “This is a target; it is not a deadline for nuclear power, nor does it mean closing nuclear power plants through political decisions,” the report says.

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