On 20 June Sweden ramped up security at its three nuclear power plants (NPPs) after explosives without a triggering device were found on a forklift on the grounds of the country's largest atomic power station at Ringhals, 45 miles south of Sweden's second-largest city, Goteborg, which has a population of 550,000 people.
Nothing to see here, move along - authorities said that while police were investigating possible sabotage, even if there had been a blast it would not have posed any great danger.
Sweden has 10 nuclear reactors at three NPPs, Ringhals, Forsmark and Oskarshamn, which generate about half of Sweden's electrical output.
In 1980 Sweden decided following a referendum to phase out the use of nuclear energy but in 2010 the center-right government overturned that decision.
Like it or not, Ringhals is Sweden's largest power plant, operating four reactors which produce 28 terawatt-hours annually, providing 20 percent of the nation's electricity and has subsequently become Europe’s “canary in a coalmine” on terrorism issues against NPPs, as the incident raises worrying questions about security and reliance on nuclear power beyond natural disasters such as the 11 March 2011 catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.
While blandly reassuring the Swedish public, Swedish Radiation Safety Authority spokesman Maria Strahle told news agency TT, “They have all raised the threat level as a precaution.” Prior to the “non” incident, NPP Ringhals was rated at one on a four-grade scale, situation "normal," but was subsequently raised to level two.
Not that Sweden has not tried to address nuclear terrorism issues, both at home and abroad. A 27 March press release from Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, speaking at World Summit on Nuclear Security in Seoul emphasized the importance of international cooperation in efforts to prevent uranium, plutonium and other radioactive material falling into the wrong hands and used for the manufacture of nuclear explosive devices or of terrorist acts, telling his audience, “Sweden is committed in international efforts to strengthen protection of nuclear material to prevent its use for the spread of nuclear weapons or dirty bombs that would cause massive destruction.”
Ironically, Bildt’s remarks were directed towards international concerns about Iranian nuclear efforts, not possible terrorist attacks against NPPs in Scandinavia.
And, even as Bildt spoke, concerns had been raised about security at the Ringhals NPP, when on 8 February the Swedish investigative television program “Uppdrag Granskning” (“Mission: Investigation”) aired an interview with a former security guard at Ringhals. The man said, “I worked at Ringhals as a security guard for about ten years… and serious incidents that we reported to the company were never passed on to the higher courts or the police. It could be alcohol, smuggling of weapons or espionage, the company's (suppression) practice was evident… Serious and dangerous incidents, which we security guards discovered and prevented in most cases, we reported in writing to the company who then reported to the head of security at the plant… My colleagues and I were ordered by our bosses not to tell the national and international inspectors what we've been through, not to answer their questions, keep them away from conducting inspections, referring them instead only to our officers and senior managers if they wanted to interrogate us or learn more…”.
The incident at Ringhals NPP has exploded the complacent view peddled by the facility’s operator, power utility Vattenfall that all is well at the site.
In the meantime, not to worry.
Police spokesman Tommy Nyman said that police have begun questioning truck drivers, reviewing CCTV footage and officers are currently trying to find out where and when the suspected explosive could have been placed on the vehicle, adding, “We will speak to everyone we think could have information about the incident,” while the device was sent off to the National Laboratory of Forensic Science, SKL in Linkoping for further tests.
No arrests have been made so far but police have begun an inquiry into the possibility of sabotage. The Swedish government has yet to comment, saying that it would wait for the outcome of the police investigation.
Just another minor incident in the Land of the midnight sun. After all, in a press release regarding the incident, Vattenfall announced on its website, “On Wednesday afternoon, 20 June, suspected explosive material was discovered in a truck on its way into the premises of the nuclear power plant Ringhals. It was in Ringhals' standard procedures for cargo and vehicle scanning that staff with bomb searching dogs found the suspected substance.”
Nothing to see here, move along.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com