Switzerland to gradually decommission all nuclear plants by 2034
Sept. 07, 2011 - BNO News - wireupdate.com
BERN, SWITZERLAND -- Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard on Wednesday announced the gradual decommission of all Switzerland's nuclear power plants by 2034, the Swissinfo news agency reported.
Leuthard told the Swiss Parliament that the five existing nuclear power stations will not be replaced when they reach the end of their lifespan. The government's nuclear policy will be discussed by the parliament in June.
The Energy Minister added that the country's nuclear plants have a lifespan of 50 years. The five plants are Beznau I (commissioned in 1969), Beznau II (1972), Muhleberg (1972), Gosgen (1978) and Leibstadt (1984).
"The existing reactors will operate for as long as they are safe," added Leuthard. "No specific date has been set for the withdrawal and while the reactors' lifespan could be less than 50 years it could also be 60."
If the policy is approved, the Swiss nuclear power plants will be decommissioned between 2019 and 2034, after each one reaches its average lifespan. However, the Swiss population is demanding to abandon entirely and rapidly the use of nuclear energy.
Last Sunday, an estimated 20,000 people participated in the biggest anti-nuclear protest in Switzerland in the last 25 years. Protesters called for the immediate shut down the Mühleberg and Beznau I nuclear power plants, the oldest in the country.
"Our reactors are safe. An immediate shutting down would weaken the network and the capacity could not be replaced," said Leuthard. "I am convinced that the government's decision will pay off in the long run as new jobs will be created."
The proposed gradual phase out of nuclear power will cost and between SFr 2.2-SFr 3.8 billion ($2.5 - $4.4 billion). About 40 percent of Switzerland's energy is supplied by the five nuclear power plants.
The Energy Minister said that this supply will be replaced with hydroelectric power, renewable energy and fossil fuels. The rightwing Swiss People's Party called the announcement "disappointing" and a "hasty and premature" decision.
The centre-right Radical Party said that the government should not close the door for new technologies. Instead, it called for greater energy efficiency and support for renewable energy.
In 1990 Swiss voters approved a ten-year moratorium for the construction of new nuclear power plants. three years later, the Swiss population rejected an extension or definite withdrawal from nuclear energy programs. It is expected that a nationwide poll on the construction of new reactors will take place in 2013.