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Photo: Cecilia Jelinek, SGU

Uranium

Uranium is used as a fuel in nuclear power plants and has therefore become one of our most debated raw materials. Where is there uranium in Sweden? What about exploration and mining? Here you get answers to these and other questions about uranium.

Uranium is a weakly radioactive, metallic element, which occurs naturally in rocks, soil and water. How high the uranium content is in the top layer of the soil is shown in the map of air-saturated gamma radiation from uranium, which can be seen in the map viewer Gamma radiation, uranium.

Average levels (variations can be large):
Earth crust 2–3 g/tons (mg/kg)
Soils in Europe 0,5–5 mg/kg
Surface water 0,01–4 microgram/litre

Uranium in the bedrock 

In Sweden, it is mainly certain granites and pegmatites that have elevated uranium content. However, high concentrations can also be found in other rocks. Uranium-rich alum shale occurs in Skåne, Västergötland, Östergötland, Öland, Närke and along the Swedish mountain range. This alum shale has uranium contents of 50–400 grams per tonne, compared with ordinary contents in uranium-rich granites of 15–40 grams per tonne.

Swedish uranium deposits 

When the rock contains an unusual amount of a substance, one usually talks about a deposit. The Swedish uranium deposits are found in alum shales and in the bedrock.

The dark alum shales are the youngest deposits, and also those that contain the largest total amounts of uranium in Sweden. They occur in large numbers in the peripheral areas of the mountain range, Skåne, Billingen in Västergötland, Östergötland, Närke and on Öland. The alum shales were formed on the seabed during Cambrian times, ie. about 500 million years ago.

In addition to uranium, the alum shales also contain organic material as well as metals such as vanadium, molybdenum and nickel. The uranium content varies between different areas, but also between different layers in the shale in each location. The most uranium-rich alum shale is that found in parts of Billingen that have a thickness of 3.5 meters and a uranium content of about 300 g / ton.

Uranium content in alum shale in different parts of Sweden:

Area Uranium content gram per tonne
Närke 150
Östergötland 100
Öland 70
Skåne 50
Billingen 200
Billingen, the uranium rich part 300
Jämtland, southern Storsjö area 245

The oldest uranium deposits in the bedrock are more than 1.9 billion years old. Many of them are located in the northern parts of Sweden. In these deposits, the uranium contents are higher than in the alum shales, often around 1000 g / ton, but their size is more limited.

Of the world's total uranium resources, 0.2 % are considered to exist in Sweden. Sweden's assets make up about 27% of Europe's uranium resources. The figures are changing as the knowledge about the uranium content of different areas is constantly improving.

Uranium exploration and uranium mining in Sweden

On 1 August 2018, an amendment to the Minerals Act (1991: 45) came into force, which means that uranium is removed from the list of concession minerals in Chapter 1. 1 § 1 of the Minerals Act. This means that applications for exploration permits or processing concessions received from that date will not include uranium. The transitional provisions state that older regulations will still apply to exploration permits that have been issued before the entry into force. Older regulations shall also continue to apply to cases concerning exploration permits and matters concerning the extension of exploration permits that have been initiated with the quarry master before the entry into force.

It is thus not possible to grant either an application for an exploration permit or a processing concession for uranium if the application has been received by the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden after 31 July 2018.

Mining Inspectorate of Sweden (new window)

Historical, state uranium exploration

During the 1970s until 1982, SGU, together with Svensk Kärnbränsleförsörjning AB, conducted extensive exploration for uranium in Sweden. At SGU's mineral information office in Malå, maps, analyzes, reports, borehole protocols and even drill cores preserved from the state uranium exploration are available.

SGU's role

Sweden's geological survey, SGU, manages and produces geological information, including where minerals are found in nature. As uranium can be harmful to the environment in high concentrations, we need to know where this can occur.

Bergsstaten, a special decision-making body within SGU, handles and decides on matters concerning exploration and extraction of minerals.

SGU's report on the energy metals uranium and thorium

Sweden's bedrock contains some of the world's largest assets of energy metals, mainly uranium but also some thorium. However, the conditions for Swedish extraction are lacking. This is stated in an SGU report on the theme of energy metals.

Read the report "Mineralmarknaden 2015 Tema: energimetaller" (new window; in Swedish)

Last reviewed 2021-02-15