13 Jun (NucNet): Sweden could build up to 10 new nuclear reactors at existing nuclear sites in the coming years with permission also given to extend the operating lifetimes of units in the existing nuclear fleet, according to an agreement between government and opposition parties on 10 June.
The agreement, published online in Swedish, signifies a significant U-turn in the left-wing ruling party’s policy on nuclear energy. It says Sweden’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 did not mean that nuclear plants would be closed then.
“This is a goal, not a cut-off date that would prohibit nuclear power, and it does not mean either the end a closure of nuclear power,” the agreement between the governing Social Democrats and Greens as well as the opposition Moderates, Centre party and Christian Democrats, says.
The agreement says government support for nuclear energy, in the form of direct or indirect subsidies, “cannot be counted upon”.
Some of the opposition parties said the agreement was “a major victory” in the dispute over nuclear energy, Business Insider Nordic reported. Pernilla Gunther, who represented the Christian Democrats in the negotiations said: “With these negotiations we’ve achieved the goal of saving nuclear power, both in the long term and short term.”
Business Insider Nordic said the issue of nuclear power in Sweden is controversial because after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 a referendum in 1980 led to a decision to phase out nuclear power in Sweden by 2010. Business Insider Nordic said that referendum has been criticised because there was no option to vote for not abolishing nuclear power.
Since then the Swedish parliament has agreed that new facilities may be built to replace old ones. The new agreement goes further by allowing 10 new reactors to be built.
Friday’s agreement does not specify which technology the plants should use. Finland’s Olkiluoto-3 and France’s Flamanville-3 are both using Areva’s EPR technology. The French state-owned is also due to provide the reactor for the UK’s Hinkley Point C power station. For Finland’s Hanhikivi-1 project, Fennovoima chose Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom for both the reactor and financing.
As part of Friday’s deal, Sweden will also phase out from next year a tax on nuclear power that had led power producers to threaten to close down reactors if it was not withdrawn.
Vattenfall, Sweden’s largest utility, threatened earlier this year to shut by the end of the decade the country’s six remaining reactors if the tax – which raised about $484m (€430m) last year – was not scrapped.
A variable production tax on nuclear power was introduced in 1984. It was gradually increased and in 2000 was replaced by a tax on installed capacity. Since its introduction this tax has increased and today corresponds to about seven öre/kWh (0.6 euros cents, 0.8 US cents).
The agreement says there is a need for “major investment” in existing nuclear plants to meet future safety requirements. Sweden has 10 commercial reactors at three sites, Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals, but the agreement notes that four of those units are scheduled to be decommissioned by 2020. Sweden gets about 40 per cent of its electricity from nuclear.
The four units scheduled to be decommissioned are Oskarshamn-1 and -2 and Ringhals-1 and -2.