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The Swiss Turn Ever So Slightly Back to Nuclear

Switzerland's Beznau NPP
Switzerland’s energy profile is one of the cleanest in the world, with virtually no fossil fuel output in the production of electricity. About 55 percent is hydroelectric, 39 percent nuclear (from five reactors) and most of the remainder renewable energy. That profile also highlights problems going forward, as the Swiss would like to end their involvement with nuclear energy by 2034. There’s some more potential in their hydro resources, but shuttering the reactors will hurt. The decision to close the reactors is part of an energy policy and, as we’ve seen in Japan, those can change.

So whither the Swiss? Nuclear or no nuclear?
“It doesn’t make sense to burn one bridge when the other one does not yet exist or is not yet in the process of being built,” said Michael Schorer, spokesman for the Nuclear Forum Switzerland. “We reject the ban on building new nuclear power plants and urge the federal council to devise an additional scenario that includes nuclear energy.”
In this regard the Nuclear Forum is at one with business associations which have objected to the general ban on nuclear energy contained in the government’s Energy Strategy 2050. The on-going consultation procedure ends on January 31, 2013.
That’s one side of it, the side for which the Japan accident has faded in significance and the industry and regulatory responses seen as reasonable.
The Green Party has collected 109,000 signatures in support of a people’s initiative that would require caps on the lifespans of existing nuclear power plants, with decommissioning after an operating period of 45 years. If Swiss voters approve the initiative, the newest nuclear power plant, in Leibstadt, would be decommissioned by 2029.

The Green Party launched the initiative following the catastrophic earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011.
That’s the other side, which would prefer you sort of skip from Fukushima to today and ignore all that has happened during the two years between the two – or, maybe, to be be fair, sees industry efforts as inadequate. It could work – the Swiss, anecdotally anyway, are not big fans of nuclear energy. But there’s some doubt.
The initiative is a means of pressuring the government and the parliament “to ensure that the withdrawal from nuclear power does not end up sidelined again,” Urs Scheuss, a Green Party expert on the environment, energy, and transportation, told
Which suggests, at the least, that the Greens feel a moment slipping away and are determined to pin it in place. If the initiative comes off – essentially a referendum – the Greens could find they’ve lost their moment.
But Schweiger believes the initiative will not be approved at the ballot box.
“The problems that are seen as significant, such as the upcoming gap in supplies, will occur much sooner than anticipated. It’s likely that the pragmatism of the voters will play a rather large role.”
Schweiger is Rolf Schweiger, president of the nuclear energy-friendly Campaign for Sensible Energy Politics. If he wants to call the Swiss pragmatic, it saves me from perpetuating a cliché. But there it is.

Let’s say Schweiger and Scheuss have now introduced their dogs into the fight. If the Swiss don’t follow the Bulgarians (see story below) and walk away from the atrocious dogfight, we’ll see. I hadn’t imagined the Swiss might reverse their policy – now I can at least imagine it.


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