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7. Protests At Test Drilling Sites

In order to find a suitable site for a high-level waste storage facility, geological investigations have taken place at a number of locations. At the time of this writing, test drilling has been carried out at 11 sites, seven extensively. Another three areas have been threatened. For general locations see the map at the end of the booklet. More than 50,000 meters of core boreholes have been drilled. The maximum depth drilled is 1,000 meters. According to SKB's current schedule, shafts will be excavated at one or two sites in 1993 and an operational site will be chosen in 1998 (32).

The first test drilling was done in 1977 at Finnsjön (close to Forsmark), at Kråkemåla (nearby Oskarshamn) and at Sternö (close to Karlshamn). The work attracted hardly any attention, since the waste issue at the time was rather unknown and thus not very controversial. The situation soon changed. Confrontations took place at Kynnefjäll and Svartboberget in 1980 and 1981, respectively. After these confrontations the companies changed their tactics. Drilling sites in backwood areas were chosen to prevent too many people from showing up, and the companies either made a minimum of information public, or consciously spread misinformation. These tactics worked well for several years, but at each site a new resistance group was formed. The resistance groups used various methods to try to stop drilling and to protest against the ways in which the waste was to be handled. A result of the nuclear power companies' test drilling activities themselves was to raise the general consciousness about waste problems in Sweden and about the whole international nuclear fuel chain.

Most of the protest groups are independent of large environmental organizations, though informal cooperation is common. The Waste Network was formed in May 1981 to facilitate cooperation among the groups. It is not an organization by the usual definition. Cooperation is not formalized with a board of directors, regulations, etc. Each group has its own independent perspective and activities. To knit things together there is a coordinating group in Gothenburg. This group has gathered knowledge and experience about high-level nuclear waste management in Sweden. Accordingly, the group's main task is to serve as a knowledge bank. Following are brief reports of protests at Kynnefjäll, Svartboberget, Klipperås, and Almunge.


Test drilling was attempted at Kynnefjäll in the northern part of Bohuslän in April 1980, immediately after the referendum on nuclear power. Resistance against the nuclear industry there had already begun. Plans in the area for nuclear reactors (at Brodalen) and a reprocessing plant (at Sannäs) were both strongly opposed and eventually stopped.

To organize against the test drilling, the local people formed a group called Save Kynnefjäll ("Rädda Kynnefjäll"). By peaceful demonstrations and establishing a 24 hour watch over the roadways, they prevented drilling from beginning. The action quickly received broad support from the local people.

Support also soon came from the political parties in the three nearby municipalities, Tanum, Munkedal and Dals Ed (33). In these municipalities, the most anti-nuclear position (line 3) in the referendum had gotten respectively 60.6%, 56.6%, and 64.2%, the last being the highest in Sweden. The municipalities threatened to use their veto power (see Chapter 9) against plans for an eventual nuclear waste storage site. Thus the campaign against drilling at Kynnefjäll, which from the start did not follow the traditional political decision-making route, finally gained political support.

The 24 hour watch by Save Kynnefjäll over the roadway leading to the intended drill site started on April 21, 1980. Eventually, a small three meter by five meter cabin was placed at a strategic crossroad and became a permanent "guard hut". The cabin soon was granted a building permit from the municipality, a telephone, and its own postal address (see Appendix 3). At the time of this writing the uninterrupted watch from the cabin is in its ninth year. Thus the action at Kynnefjäll is one of the longest, non-stop anti-nuclear protests in the world.

In economic terms, the human labor invested to protect the area from the nuclear industry can conservatively be estimated at 20 million crowns (US$3.1 million). The Save Kynnefjäll group does not look at their activities as an expense but as an investment in the future. So far the investment has resulted in great returns.


The next site targeted for drilling was the Svartboberget in Ovanåker municipality. Here, the nuclear company established public relations tactics which were used for several years. After giving a minimum of information to the public, the drilling companies tried to creep in without attracting notice. The plans were leaked at a late stage and the locals, organized in the group Save The Voxna Valley ("Rädda Voxnadalen"), made heroic efforts in the midwinter cold of 1981 to stop the drilling. On February 22, 1981 about 30 protestors blocked the road leading to the drilling machine. The water tank needed to operate the machine was prevented from reaching the drilling site. The blockade was maintained until February 24, when the police cleared the road by arresting 25 people. These were the first arrests in Sweden in an anti-nuclear protest, and the first civil disobedience trial since the early 1900's followed.

In the court house in Bollnäs hangs the proud motto "The Land Must Be Developed With Law And Order" (34). In the shadow of this motto, 3 members of Save The Voxna Valley were sentenced March 11, 1981, and later 22 more people were sentenced, in a total of nine legal proceedings. The crime was "arbitrary conduct". First a police officer confronted them on the site and told them that they ought to be grateful to live in a democracy where protests are allowed. Then the district court heavily fined them (35). It is offensive to the common sense of justice to judge people in this way. The defendants tried to prevent environmental destruction of their home area and pleaded self-defense.

The actions by Save The Voxna Valley were triggered by the lack of responsibility of nuclear power companies and authorities on the waste issue. The economic loss due to the brief stop in the drilling has been estimated at a few thousand crowns (several hundred US$). It must be pointed out that in a chemical pollution case, the director in charge of a guilty company, BT Kemi at Teckomatorp, Skåne, was completely acquitted. This was in spite of people in nearby houses clearly having received injuries due to leakage from poison-filled barrels that he had ordered buried. The cost to society for the clean-up at Teckomatorp was millions of crowns (hundreds of thousands of US$).

The sentences of the people in Save The Voxna Valley were out of all proportion. Also, the proceedings amounted to a legal scandal which has hitherto attracted scant notice. When the court appointed the panel of lay assessors at Bollnäs, only people belonging to political parties positive to nuclear power were admitted, while others were deleted from the rotation list then in force. The verdict was carried out by a special court for nuclear cases. This is the first special court known to have been established in Sweden. Such courts, usually found only in dictatorships, are unlawful in Sweden as well as in other "democracies".

The procedure used in appointing lay assessors was reported to the Judiciary Commissioner. This official was content with a telephone call to the court president handling the case, asking whether any political considerations had decided the choice of lay assessors. Naturally, the answer was negative. After this paradoxical investigation, the Commissioner dismissed the report as being unfounded.

This legal scandal should be investigated, and the people found guilty because of it should receive justice. The statement by Birgitta Dahl, now Minister of Energy and Environment, that "the workings of the courts must not be questioned", cannot be accepted. When laws and regulations are bent, such an opinion will have catastrophic effects.


The drilling work by SKB at Klipperås began in 1983. Strong opposition surfaced in the area, and a local group, MASK (Against Atomic Waste in Klipperås) was duly formed. Later, yet another group, FALK (The Association Against Atomic Waste in Klipperås) was formed. When drilling couldn't be stopped, the locals, supported by local politicians, demanded adequate information concerning aims and results. In the fall of 1983, MASK requested that an independent geologist take part in analyzing the drill cores. The answer from SKB was "no" as a geologist not employed by SKB "would merely be in the way".

Nevertheless, in June 1984, 40 meters of drill core weighing several hundred kilos mysteriously disappeared from a locked SKB container at the Klipperås site. There were no signs of violence. An anonymous letter to the local newspapers explained that the core would be examined by an independent geologist and the results published. MASK was not responsible for the action but supported it morally.

The SKB staff were furious. They stated that the missing cores were among the most important and that no Swedish geologist would do an analysis under such circumstances. In October 1984, SKB offered to let the "crime" pass unnoticed if the cores were placed under a pine tree in the Klipperås area. The same day the offer was made, a second anonymous letter was received by the local newspapers and Expressen, one of Sweden's largest evening newspapers. The letter read in part:

"Like everybody else, SKB has to wait until Christmas eve to look under the Christmas tree. It remains to be seen whether or not SKB has behaved itself" (36).

Enclosed with the letter was a 14 cm long piece of drill core, a geological analysis of the whole 40 meter long core, and a photograph of two persons dressed up in Santa Claus suits and carrying a heavy drill core box. The geological analysis read:

"The whole zone is very strongly permeable, regardless of local existence of swelling clay minerals. As a general conclusion it can be said that bedrock with deformations zones of this size is clearly unsuitable for depositing high-level nuclear waste."

SKB, satisfied before disappearance of the core with "the very solid rock" in that particular hole, then agreed to the validity of the Santa Claus analysis, but pointed out that they could not agree with the conclusion.

Up to 1986 SKB had published two summary reports in Swedish on the Klipperås investigations, which did not contain any conclusions or interpretations of the data. A more complete report was said to be coming shortly. This was at long last presented in the fall of 1986. About 500 pages of scientific reports in English were handed over to Nybro municipality. The contents are incomprehensible to ordinary people without specialist knowledge. Even a good command of English and general knowledge about geology doesn't help much. Apparently, this is known to SKB. In a letter enclosed with the 500 pages of information, the nuclear agency referred to the documents stating:

"They are written in English, using scientific terminology ... No easily comprehensible report in Swedish is planned at present."

It wasn't until the MASK action group wrote and complained to the regulatory agency SKN, that a poor summary in Swedish was produced.

But, SKB's fall 1986 report on their research and development program for waste treatment stated:

"SKB will continuously inform the public, the authorities and others about plans, work in progress and results from the activities called for by the research program."

This sounds very good, but it is not put into practice. To date, SKB has not concluded whether or not the Klipperås site is suitable for storing nuclear waste. The only answer the worried local population get from SKB is: "The area can not be disregarded for further studies."

It is clear that the public information history of SKB is gravely compromised. Their conduct at Klipperås did not serve to improve the situation. It is negligent as well as insolent to infringe upon the rights of citizens to information about activities of such importance as test drilling for a nuclear waste storage site.


A confrontation between concerned people and the nuclear industry occurred again in the winter of 1985-86. SKB then attempted new test drilling at Almunge to the east of Uppsala, where "gabbro" rock (thought to be relatively watertight) is found. SKB used the usual tactic: the less information given to the public the better. Harald Åhagen of the SKB was quoted in the local daily newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning on October 23, 1985, as giving the following explanation as to why the locals at Almunge hadn't been informed:

"That is of no use. We do not have the time to sit in on a series of showy meetings. We consider that the meetings cried for by the public have nothing to do with public information."

However, a series of happy coincidences ensured that the local group Save Uppsala ("Rädda Uppsala") had time to grow strong enough to arrange a 24 hour guard before drilling started. A confrontation took place and the police intervention was covered by a Swedish TV news team. Everybody in Sweden had the chance to see about 70 police, accompanied by dogs, carry away elderly women and other typical "professional demonstrators".

SKB was strongly reprimanded by the Energy and Environment Minister for setting the police on people, and for not distributing serious public information about its activities. A large public information meeting was arranged, but the change in attitude by SKB was only superficial. On opening the meeting, KBS Chief Executive Per-Eric Ahlström claimed that the company had never before encountered any protests against drilling. This thundering lie was immediately followed up by SKB trying to start drilling again in the middle of the night, immediately after the meeting had ended.

The Almunge locals, now thoroughly fed up with SKB, promptly stopped the drilling at dawn. While the drillers were having a coffee break, a couple of protesters sat in the doorway to the drilling machine, blocking its front entrance. The drillers entered through the back door and resumed drilling, but stopped the machine when two people crawled underneath and placed their bodies near the spinning drill pipe. Later the protesters boarded up the entrance to the drill machine and kept at least two people sitting on the front steps 24 hours a day. Since the Minister had prohibited further police actions, the SKB had to stop work. After a couple of months the drill machine was moved out of the area and SKB lost interest in investigating gabbroic rock, saying there was no longer any reason to do so.

The incidents at Almunge also made the waste issue part of the general consciousness. The Waste Network was twice invited to meet with the Energy and Environment Minister. The lengthy discussions with the Minister had no immediate effect, but at least it was a good opportunity to explain the anti-nuclear view to top politicians.

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