Nuclear Politics

Switzerland Rejects Plans To Speed Up Country’s Nuclear Phaseout

By David Dalton
27 November 2016

27 Nov (NucNet): People in Switzerland voting in a referendum today have rejected a proposal to introduce a strict timetable for phasing out nuclear power with provisional results showing 54.2% voted against the initiative.

The provisional results also show that 20 out of 26 cantons rejected the proposal.

The popular initiative being voted on, backed by the Green Party, could have resulted in the permanent shutdown of three nuclear units next year. It called for Beznau-1 and -2 and Mühleberg to be closed in 2017, with the two remaining units, Gösgen and Leibstadt, to follow in 2024 and 2029.

Because the referendum could have resulted in changes to the constitution, two majorities were needed – a majority of all citizens voting and a majority of Switzerland’s cantons.

The provisional results show that almost all German speaking cantons voted clearly against the initiative, whereas most French speaking cantons voted in favour. All nuclear power stations are in the German speaking part of the country.

In the canton of Aargau with its three nuclear units, 63% said no to the initiative. In the canton of Solothurn with one unit, 61% said no, and in the canton of Berne with one unit, 56% said no. Turnout was 44.8%.

Today’s referendum was the seventh since 1979 on ending the use of nuclear energy and on limiting the operational lifetime of nuclear power plants. In all of the votes, most voters were nuclear friendly, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper said today.

Michael Frank, director of Swiss Utilities Association VSE said the result was an endorsement of the present policy not to introduce limits on operational lifetimes.

Heinz Karrer, president of the Swiss union of commerce and industry, and former chairman of of Axpo – operator of the Beznau and Leibstadt nuclear stations – said limiting the lifetime of nuclear units would be wrong.

Hans-Ulrich Bigler, president of the Swiss Nuclear Forum, said in a media release that a clear majority of the Swiss population trusts the operators of Swiss nuclear stations.

Last month, Swiss energy minister Doris Leuthard said the referendum was “premature” because it would leave Switzerland unable to replace power output with energy from renewables.

In October 2016, the Swiss parliament adopted a number of measures that form part of its 2050 energy strategy, including one that prevents the construction or replacement of nuclear power units.

However, the government earlier decided not to introduce legal limitations on the service life of existing nuclear power stations.

About 33% of Swiss electricity was generated from nuclear sources in 2015, data by the International Atomic Energy Agency show.

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