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The elevator takes 90 seconds to descend half a kilometre underground. The cage door opens onto a dark, damp tunnel deep in the Swedish rock, where groundwater trickles down the granite walls as trucks rumble by.
Here, at the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory in the southeastern Swedish town of Oskarshamn, researchers are using an underground maze of four kilometres (2.5 miles) of tunnels to test methods to enable Sweden to become the first country in the world to bury spent nuclear fuel for hundreds of thousands of years.
The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), an independent company owned by nuclear power plant operators, is due to select a site sometime in June for its final repository for high-level spent nuclear fuel from Sweden’s 10 reactors.