Swiss parliament approves nuclear plant phase out

September 28, 2011
The Leibstadt nuclear power plant is seen near Leibstadt, northern Switzerland in May. The Swiss parliament has voted to phase out the country's nuclear plants, about six months after the Fukushima accident in Japan.

The Swiss parliament's upper house on Wednesday approved plans to phase out the country's nuclear plants over the next two decades in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

It followed a June vote by the lower chamber to back an exit from nuclear energy recommended by the government, which had earlier frozen plans for a new construction programme after the Fukushima atomic plant explosion.

Bern said it would count on the development of its already considerable hydro-electric plants and other renewable energy to make up for the loss of nuclear power, while not ruling out importing electricity.

If necessary the country could also fall back on electricity produced by fossil fuels, a statement added, while still respecting targets set under Switzerland's climate change policy.

Under the government's recommendation, the first nuclear plant to be shut down would be Beznau I in 2019, followed by Beznau II and Muehleberg in 2022, Goegen in 2029 and Leibstadt in 2034.

The government predicted that such a programmed phasing out nuclear energy would favour businesses involved in green technology, boost employment and help Switzerland deal with expected rising electricity prices in Europe.

Initial calculations estimate that the cost of reshaping the country's energy resources, offset by measures to cut consumption, would cost the country between 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent of gros s domestic product per year.

Environment and Energy Minister Doris Leuthard also noted that nuclear energy was anyway becoming more expensive, due to the rising cost of making plants safer and more secure.

However, the move to halt atomic energy was opposed by the federation of Swiss businesses EconomieSuisse, which had slammed it as an "irresponsible decision."

The association of Swiss electricity companies applauded the decision for a progressive end to nuclear energy, rather than an immediate stop.

"The continuation of these plants gives us time to find solutions amid a shortage as well as implement more efficient measures," it said.

However, the association stressed that the population must be given a say in the decision.

Environmental group Green Cross International's president Mikhail Gorbachev meanwhile welcomed Switzerland's decision.

"I applaud Switzerland for taking this brave step towards ending its reliance on nuclear energy," he said in a statement.

"The ghastly memories of Chernobyl and now Fukushima are too fresh and vivid to allow us to ponder any other alternative than ending our reliance on nuclear energy," added the former Russian president.

Besides Switzerland, Germany has also opted to shut down all of its nuclear reactors by the end of 2022 after the Fukushima plant was wrecked by a tsunami sparked by a devastating earthquake.

Explore further: Switzerland opposes building further nuclear power plants

Related Stories

Swiss protest nuclear power

May 23, 2011

About 20,000 people took part in an anti-nuclear demonstration in north Switzerland on Sunday ahead of a government decision on the future of atomic energy in the country.

German parliament backs nuclear exit by 2022

July 8, 2011

The German parliament sealed plans Friday to phase out nuclear energy by 2022, making the country the first major industrial power to take the step in the wake of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant.

Japan vows to continue nuclear plant exports

August 5, 2011

Japan said Friday it will continue exporting atomic power plants, despite uncertainty over its own use of them as it continues to grapple with a crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

Room for nuclear energy in the future: new IEA chief

September 7, 2011

The new chief of the International Energy Agency Maria van der Hoeven said Wednesday nuclear power will have a place in the future despite the Fukushima catastrophe and the decision by some countries to opt out.

Spain facing key decision on use of nuclear power

June 11, 2009

The Spanish government will have to take a clear stand for or against nuclear power in the coming weeks when it decides whether to renew the operating licence of the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants.

Recommended for you

What do you get when you cross an airplane with a submarine?

February 15, 2018

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
Great now I have to worry about solar radiation in my chocolate and fondue, and billions of Swiss needlessly falling off their rooftops while installing collectors. So much needless suffering! Besides I hear homes around Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are a steal. Yet another reason nukes rule.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.