Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweden Moves to End Nuclear Moratorium

What do you think of when you think Sweden? IKEA? Volvos? Blonds? Glögg? Smörgåsbords? Socialism? Minimalist design? Efficiency? Environmentalism? 

Nuclear energy?

Oh, yes Sweden gets 42 percent of its electricity (2008 total) (sub req’d) from nuclear power, more than double, as a percentage, the United States. In fact, 34.7 percent of Sweden’s total primary energy supply (2007 total) comes from nuclear, more than other source.

But Sweden also has a Chernobyl-era ban in place on new construction and has come to this point of time with no viable alternative to replace that 42 percent. So, it should be no surprise that last week the government of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt introduced legislation to allow the construction of new nuclear power plants

“…The government’s move to introduce a bill to Parliament this week highlights renewed interest in nuclear power as countries try to reduce their dependence on energy imports and lower their CO2 emissions … coming just six months before Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt faces a general election, it also underscores how confident many governments are in a renaissance of nuclear power. The latest opinion poll shows 52 percent of Swedes now support new nuclear power.”

The bill is scheduled for a vote in June, but the prime minister has made clear in a report where he stands. A “sustainable energy and climate policy for the environment, competitiveness and long-term stability,” released in February 2009, plots a course forward for nuclear energy in Sweden. His attitude is a clear as can be: 

“…Swedish electricity production today is essentially based on only two sources – hydropower and nuclear power. Climate change is now in focus and nuclear power will thus remain an important source of Swedish electricity production for the foreseeable future…”

The paper also has some pretty simple prescriptions on how Sweden can get there:

“…The Nuclear Phase-Out Act will be annulled. The prohibition against new construction in the Nuclear Activities Act will be lifted. An inquiry will be appointed to design nuclear power legislation that enables a controlled generational shift in Swedish nuclear power…”

The goal for Sweden will be to keep their 10 reactors up and running and phase out old reactors as they reach the end of their operating life:

“…The transitional period during which nuclear power will be in use will be extended by allowing new construction at existing sites within the framework of a maximum of ten reactors. It will be possible to grant permits for successively replacing current reactors as they reach the end of their technological and economic life…”

That’s not a full-blown restart of the industry, but it’s a far cry from an outright ban on new build. There’s also a plea in the report for regulatory stability:

“…Swedish businesses and consumers must be able to rely on there being a secure supply of energy. This requires giving energy companies long-term rules and stable operating conditions. Constantly changing rules lead to insecurity and a lack of investment, which in turn lead to high electricity prices and a failure to make the necessary adaption in response to climate change...”

Regulatory stability leading to money saved for electricity ratepayers, that’s music to our ears.

And in a good nod to current economic downturn, Swedes seem to increasingly think nuclear energy is not just good for the environment, it’s also good for the economy:

“…A poll earlier this year quoted by media showed most Swedes favored nuclear energy as the best source to protect the environment and create jobs: 26 percent versus 21 percent for wind power and 18 percent for hydro…”

Oh, and don’t forget the rather attractive long-term levelized cost of nuclear energy:clip_image002

“Some of that increased support [for nuclear energy] may be due to increased electricity prices. Last winter, spot prices for electricity in Sweden soared by up to 400 percent due to scheduled shutdowns of the old reactors and delayed start-ups, underlining what Sweden’s power prices could look like without nuclear.”

This will come to a vote in June and it will be close, so there are no guarantees. But it seems Swedes have more and more reasons each day to reconsider nuclear energy.

Something to think about next time you’re picking out some new furniture at IKEA.     

3 comments:

donb said...

I wonder if there is any language limiting the size of the reactors. The capacity of the current 10 reactors is about 9.4 GWe. There could be a substantial capacity upgrade using the largest available reactors as replacements.

Johan said...

There is no limit to size in the new law(assuming it passes parlament).

Btw the ban is not chernobyl era, the referendum was held in 1980 after TMI and 6 years before the Chernobyl disaster.

DocForesight said...

Uff da! Dem Swedes could teach a ting or two to dare mates in Visconsin. Ya sure.

Being 100% Norwegian allows me the freedom to poke fun at my geographical countrymen. I am certain it will be reciprocated.