According to Erik Svenke, who has been a major figure in the Swedish nuclear industry, the industry worldwide would benefit most from a patient, careful effort to build public trust by showing nuclear power to be the reliable, safe, and clean energy source he believes it can be. This, he indicates, must be done first, and done well, by improvements to the existing system of light water reactors. The next generation of reactors, in his view, should be made inherently safe, or immune to the possibility of containment failures resulting from core meltdowns. Several years ago when the funding and completion of the now dead Clinch River breeder project were still a prime objective of the nuclear industry in the United States, Svenke observed to me, "Wouldn't that money be better spent on the Three Mile Island cleanup?"
The Svenke philosophy appears to be strongly expressed in the Swedish nuclear program, and in the waste program in particular. No nation has done better in the past than the Swedes, or seems likely to do better in the future, to honor the political imperative to contain radioactivity in nuclear operations. Sweden's past success in this respect rests partly upon its decision long ago not to undertake reprocessing for the recovery of plutonium for use as either a nuclear explosive or a fuel. Its future success seems likely to continue to depend upon the exceptional measures the Swedes are willing to take to assure that radionuclides remain isolated and contained. The nuclear phase-out, which may yet prove to be no more than a long moratorium, has put the Swedish industry on its mettle, and to date it is responding well.