Energiewende in the Alps: Switzerland's transition away from nuclear

Switzerland has a long history of trying to be as self-sufficient and energy independent as possible. Although its energy supply system has served it well in the past, the country is now looking to turn away from its reliance on nuclear power and seeks to compensate for the energy lost from hydropower as a result of climate change. In the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, Dominic Notter of Empa discusses how the country aims to address this transition, finding a new supply mix that combines energy conservation, greater efficiencies, alternative energy sources, the "smart grid", and the introduction of new technologies, so that Switzerland can secure its energy independence for the future.

In the article, Notter outlines:

"Switzerland has a long tradition of using . With no reserves of coal, oil, or natural gas of its own, the country has to turn to other sources to meet its energy needs [...] All told, nine percent of Switzerland's total energy is met by nuclear power- a figure triple that of the United States (World Nuclear Association, 2015a) [...] But after Fukushima, the Swiss government decided to close down all its , without a clear vision of what will take their place- a pressing concern in a time of ever- increasing demand."

Notter discusses how the government is examining how best to replace the energy generated from nuclear power. Switzerland could buy its energy from neighboring countries but prefers to be as self-sufficient and energy-independent as possible after being surrounded by hostile powers in World War II and relying on them for supplies in a time of great scarcity. He states:

"The goal is to gradually phase out of nuclear power and into renewables by 2034, and to be largely independent of fossil fuels. Reaching it is based upon the idea of combining highly efficient energy production processes with substantial reductions in energy consumption."

Notter concludes:

"Over the next four decades Switzerland faces a restructuring of its entire system. The new supply mix will be free from , rather low in carbon intensity, and resting upon much higher efficiencies based on the newest and the most energy- efficient technologies- along with the developments of smart grids, decentralized power suppliers, hydropower, wind power, photovoltaics, biomass, wood, and the rigorous use of burning waste to generate energy whenever materials cannot be recycled [...] A single "magic bullet" suitable for every purpose is not available. Switzerland most likely has to find its own supply mix, with the biggest sustainability potential."

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More information: The article "Small country, big challenge: Switzerland's upcoming transition to sustainable energy", Dominic Notter, published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, will be free to access for a limited time.
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Citation: Energiewende in the Alps: Switzerland's transition away from nuclear (2015, July 7) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-07-energiewende-alps-switzerland-transition-nuclear.html
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Jul 07, 2015
Are our Deniers starting to feel isolated?

Alone in the world?

Jul 07, 2015
Switzerland has had its own close call with nuclear in 1969. Reading it is quite a horror-story. It's one of these showpieces how a tiny fault can snowball out of control. Something no amount of 'careful design' can fully eliminate.

Jul 07, 2015
Lamentable. Renewable needs much more land areas and causes considerably more impact on the environment per gigawatt produced than nuclear, and also kills millions birds and bats.

Jul 07, 2015
"Over the last fifty years, nuclear energy has proven to be the safest and most efficient of all energy sources, from both the human health and environmental perspectives. In total, to produce a trillion kWh of electricity, nuclear takes less land, uses less steel and concrete, has less emissions, kills fewer people, and has lower life-cycle costs than any other energy source."
"• annually nuclear provides $10 billion in federal revenues, and $2.2 billion in state tax revenues"
"Nuclear is also the energy source that is most immune to climatic changes and severe weather events."

Jul 07, 2015
Cut and paste all you want, Willie, you will lose to economics, science, and health.

Jul 07, 2015
..you will lose to economics, science, and health.
Nature will lose to 'green' hypocrisy and vested political interests.

Jul 07, 2015
"For years, Germany has been trying to force more wind and solar energy onto its electrical grid, but what started as a well-intended effort to fight global warming devolved into an expensive labyrinth of subsidies and special interest politics."
A lie has short legs, but it runs faster and farther than the truth; even so, it does not last forever.
"Report: Germany's 'Green' Revolution Is Running Out Of Money"

Jul 07, 2015
Look, I think the reality is that Nuclear is a great opportunity to trade in one cost (nuclear waste) for a benefit (reduced CO2 energy production). In an ideal world, that would be great.

But I think it's naive to neglect political and social realities. That infrastructure is wildly underfunded on a regular basis means plant upgrades, waste disposal, and safety are likely to be well below ideal levels for operating such a plant.

Nuclear could, in theory, be a great solution... but it has to come with broad political changes to our funding priorities as a society to ensure its safety and environmental compatibility.

Jul 07, 2015
Our expert opinion is that "fantasy will supply 80% of switzerland's power needs, while stone soup (switzerland has copious supplies of stone) will provide much of the country's nutritional needs"

Jul 07, 2015
Not needed, burns. Alternative energy can do it.

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