Tucked away just south of the Swedish capital, not far from suburban rows of houses and busy apartment blocks, the Ågesta nuclear power plant provided electricity and heating for Stockkholm suburbs in the 60s.
The Ågesta nuclear power plant in 1963. Photo: Gunnar Wåhlén/TT
Sweden’s third nuclear reactor and its first commercial nuclear power, the Ågesta plant supplied heating to the Farsta surburb for 11 years from 1963, using heavy water moderation and fuelled with natural uranium.
The cooling tower. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Forty-six years after its closure, the owners Vattenfall are now starting the process of tearing it down. New electricity and ventilation has been installed to make sure there is no leak of radioactive particles when the reactor, control rods and cooling systems are to be taken apart and transported to secure storage.
The Ågesta plant is located south of Stockholm, near the Farsta suburb. Photo: GoogleMaps
The demolition work is being carried out by robots and people and is expected to be completed by 2025.
Around 1,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste will be transported by truck to Studsvik outside Nyköping, where it will be stored pending the expansion of a repository at Forsmark, the site of one of Sweden’s largest nuclear power plants still in operation.
Vattenfall's decommissioning chief Sven Ordéus inside one of the old rooms at Ågesta. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Several other decommissioning projects are ongoing in Sweden. The Barsebäck nuclear power plant in southern Sweden is being torn down, reactors O1 and O2 at Oskarshamn are being decommissioned, Ringhals 2 has been closed and Ringhals 1 are set to close before the end of the year.
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
The Ågesta plant was unique in that it was a relatively small plant close to a major city, and it remained the only nuclear power plant of its kind in Sweden. When the price of oil went down and light-water reactors turned out to be better and more efficient, the technology used at Ågesta largely became redundant.
But it remains a sign of the optimism Swedes had for the future after the war.
“We were a small country at the front line of technology. Major resources were needed, both at Ågesta and at Studsvik. When I am inside this plant I am fascinated by how skilled we were in Sweden,” Sven Ordéus, head of Vattenfall’s decommissioning operations, told Swedish news agency TT on Monday.