Swiss reject plan to axe atomic power
Leibstadt. Source: Wikimedia
Switzerland has voted in a referendum to reject a speedy exit from five nuclear power plants, as concerns over losing energy independence outweighed safety fears raised by the measure’s advocates.
Almost 55 per cent of voters turned down the initiative as part of the Swiss system of direct democracy where the electorate has the final say on divisive issues.
Reactors Muehleberg and Beznau I and II would have been closed down in 2017, followed by Goesgen in 2024 and Leibstadt in 2029, had the vote gone the other way.
The Swiss Green party gathered the 50,000 signatures needed to trigger the referendum from the population of around 8.2 million.
Switzerland holds more referendums than anywhere else with the direct democracy tradition going back more than 100 years. Swiss voters have this year rejected plans to provide a universal basic income and to limit the wages of public sector executives.
The authorities and the nuclear-power industry opposed the plan, saying it could have led to blackouts, rising costs and the loss of power independence because the country would have become increasingly dependent on coal-fired power from Germany.
“We’re very happy Swiss voters are giving such an explicit result,” Heinz Karrer, a former head of the utility provider Axpo, told state-run SRF television. “Switzerland’s people don’t want a radical solution. It would have caused uncertainties about our energy supply, something Swiss people were unwilling to risk.”
Germany plans to close its remaining nuclear power installations by 2022, a response to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan that also prompted the Swiss vote.
By 2050, Switzerland plans to replace nuclear power, which currently supplies about a third of the Alpine nation’s electricity, with renewable sources, including wind and solar energy.
But the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest in parliament, says the plan is too expensive. The Greens are calling for the industry to be axed, saying the aging Beznau I, the oldest operating nuclear power station in the world, has been running since 1969 and needs to close.
Beznau I and Leibstadt, the largest Swiss nuclear power station, have been closed for months after maintenance issues, including the discovery of discolouration in eight cladding tubes surrounding Leibstadt’s fuel rods.
Socialist Party MP Roger Nordmann said that the battle to close the oldest plants would continue. “We will in any case fight for the immediate closure of Beznau 1 and 2,” he told the ATS, insisting the two reactors “are too dangerous”.