Nuclear Energy in Sweden

Will Matthiessen
March 27, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: The Oskarshamn 1 Nuclear Power Plant located in the southern part of Sweden. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Sweden has a relatively cool climate. The winters are cold, and the heating of houses is definitely required, so Sweden's economy is definitely energy-intensive. Oil is the largest source of energy in Sweden; but it is worth noting that more electricity is produced per capita by nuclear reactors in Sweden that any other country in the world. [1] Since 1970, Sweden has been trying to reduce the dependence on oil and shift its energy focus elsewhere for environmental purposes. Nuclear Energy is becoming much more popular due to its sustainability. But it has also caused a divide in opinions among the major political parties. [1,2] The concern comes from the possibility of reactor accidents, long term health issues, and what to do with nuclear waste. [1] However, since 1970, nuclear power in Sweden has become much more prominent, as the country has developed and the demand for energy increased.

History of Nuclear Energy in Sweden

Nuclear Technology first appeared in Sweden in 1947, when a development program was carried out and decided by Parliament. This led to the first ever research reactor going critical in Sweden in 1954. This was followed the first prototype Nuclear Power Plant to be created in a rock cavern located in Stockholm. This power plant was used for district heating. It operated from 1964 to 1974 until it was shut down. [1,2] The first ever commercial power plant, named Oskarshamn 1, was commissioned in 1972. It was followed by the commission of 11 other reactors in the area. These 12 units functioned for 13 years until all 12 of them were shut down in 1985. Interestingly enough, one of three functioning plants in Sweden today, known as the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant (Fig. 1), is located in the same area as the original Oskarshamn 1 Plant.Following the Nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986, there was a good amount of concern raised regarding the use of nuclear energy among the people of Sweden. [2] Then in the mid 1990s the Swedish government introduced a tax on nuclear power that penalized nuclear energy sources, costing SEK 5,514 per MWth per month. [2] The tax was eventually doubled in 2010, reaching a price of SEK 10,200 per MWth per month. This caused outrage among the nuclear energy community in Sweden due to the fact that nuclear energy plants were punished much more than plants with other forms of electricity. [2] Finally in June of 2016 an agreement was made to ensure that the tax would be phased out come June of 2019. [2,3]

Public Opinion and Current State

Although nuclear energy plants are a huge contributor to energy in power in Sweden, the public has very mixed opinions regarding nuclear plants. As of 2007, there are 10 nuclear reactors in operation in all of Sweden. [1,3] In 2010 a group of Greenpeace activists marched in on the Forsmark nuclear power plant to protest the continuing operation of the plant, which they thought to be unsafe. The same sort of thing happened in 2012 at the Ringhals nuclear plant, along with other smaller protests at various nuclear plants in the country.

Nuclear Energy is one of the most controversial topics when it comes to divide between major political parties. The majority of the parties are in favor of phasing out nuclear energy. But the second largest party, the Conservatives, are in favor of keeping nuclear energy active in order to "reach energy production goals". [2] The largest political group, the Social Democrats, believe that nuclear power "must be phased out". [2] The debate is ongoing as far as what to do about nuclear energy.

But an important thing to consider is what the implications would be if nuclear energy were totally phased out. Staffan Qvist, a physics and astronomy professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, offered his input on the controversy. He proposes that the current fleet of reactors that is functioning still has a remaining potential production of up to 2,100 TWh. [3,4] He also states that the phase-out of the nuclear power plants would mean a heavier reliance on fossil fuels, which is harmful for the environment, not to mention a forced shutdown would cause an extra 2.1 Gt of carbon emissions. [3,4] Sweden depends heavily on Nuclear Energy, so the phase out of all of its reactors would surely cause major changes. So it will be interesting to see what the government decides to do in the future.

© Will Matthiessen. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] T. Kaberger, "History of Nuclear Power in Sweden," Estudos Avançados 21, 225 (2007).

[2] P. Hedberg and S. Holmberg, "Swedish Nuclear Power Policy," University of Gothenberg, April 2008.

[3] S. A. Qvist and B. W. Brook, "Environmental and Health Impacts of a Policy to Phase Out Nuclear Power in Sweden," Energy Policy 84, 1 (2015).

[4] A. Todsikov, "Nuclear Power in Sweden," Physics 241 Stanford University, Winter 2016.