Sweden considers building nuclear reactor for research

STOCKHOLM - The Swedish government is looking at building a nuclear reactor purely for research, although a decision will not be taken until after a general election in September, Swedish daily Dagens Industri reported.

The International Energy Agency has said Sweden must replace its ageing nuclear plants between 2022 and 2035, assuming an operational lifespan of 50 years for each reactor.

Dagens Industri quoted Swedish Education Minister Jan Bjorklund as saying that such an investment could help Sweden become one of the world leaders in this area of research. "I look at this very positively," he said.

He said he understood that nuclear energy was a controversial issue and added: "At the same time we agree that we must have a sustainable energy supply which reduces climate emissions." The new reactor would come at a cost of at least 1.5 billion Swedish crowns (S$0.27 billion) to the state and would be built in Oskarshamn, host to the country's oldest reactor which reaches the age of 50 in 2022.

The paper said, without citing sources, that contact has already been made with Sweden's biggest power group Vattenfall about the project.

Sweden's centre-right coalition government in 2010 overturned a nuclear phase-out policy, dating from the 1980s, by permitting construction of new plants to replace Sweden's existing 10 reactors, which now provide about 40 per cent of its electricity.

It insisted at the time this would not involve financial support from the government, although the high initial costs mean companies hesitate to invest in nuclear without help.