Swedish town lobbies for nuclear waste facility

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

In Sweden residents of two communities actively lobbied to have a nuclear waste repository built in their neighborhood. Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Jacob Spangenberg, mayor of the winning town ? Osthammar.

MARCO WERMAN: Wherever nuclear material is processed there's nuclear waste to deal with too. That means finding a safe place to store radioactive material that will remain dangerous for thousands of years. Most of us would say, not in my backyard, but in Sweden residents of two communities actively lobbied to have a nuclear waste facility built in their neighborhood. The seaside town of Osthammar in eastern Sweden won out. Jacob Spangenberg is the Mayor there. He says it was a logical decision for the town.

JACOB SPANGENBERG: We have had nuclear power in our municipality since the beginning of the seventies. And then we have had a repository for low and medium term waste since 1986, so we are quite familiar with the technique and the environment of the nuclear power I would say.

WERMAN: What's in it for Osthammar though?

SPANGENBERG: It's a long term investment in terms of employment opportunities. A lot of investments will take place in the municipality at the repository itself.

WERMAN: And how many jobs are we talking about?

SPANGENBERG: It depends on how you count. Something between 250 to 350 directly employed in the operations of the repository while it's built. But then another 500 to 600 during the construction period.

WERMAN: It's interesting, Sweden swore off nuclear power in a referendum in 2002, now it supports it again. Why the change in this direction toward nuclear power and obviously, in your case, nuclear waste?

SPANGENBERG: What has maybe changed in the political and public sentiment is that the climate issue and the way that energy is produced in terms of CO2 emissions is, of course, something that is very, very different compared to let's say the discussions and the political environment during the seventies and early eighties. That has created a huge, a different, approach I would say, to nuclear power as such. But I must stress and underline that there is no decision made in terms of new nuclear investment.

WERMAN: I'm wondering if you have children and if you do, whether you'd let them play near this waste dump.

SPANGENBERG: I have children, although they are a bit, they are adults right now. But supposedly if I had grandchildren, which I hope to get one day maybe, I would not fear this at all. That is one of the conditions that make me confident. We have a very strong legislation and very, how shall I put it, firm national authorities that will truly monitor and review this application and provided the industry is able to solve the problem from a technical point of view, I feel confident to even myself, walk around on top of this dump. I don't have any problem at all.

WERMAN: Well Mr. Mayor, you're a politician, do you think this is a good political move for you?

SPANGENBERG: From a local perspective I believe that showing responsibility for future generations in this very difficult issue to me is an election winner, so to speak, from a local level. But I have no problem in really motivating my decision even to a bigger audience like, for instance, in this interview.

WERMAN: Jacob Spangenberg, Mayor of Osthammar, Sweden, thank you very much for your time Mr. Mayor.

SPANGENBERG: You are welcome.