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[cdn-nucl-l] Swiss Nuclear debate reaches critical point
Posted on SwissInfo.org on May 16, 2003 and at:
Note: In 2000, Switzerland's electricity production looked like this:
64.182 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity-production by source:
fossil fuel: 3.96%
nuclear: 36.93% (23.7 billion kWh)
Electricity-consumption: 52.62 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity-exports: 31.4 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity-imports: 24.33 billion kWh (2000)
Net exports: 7.07 billion kWh
% of net imports of consumption: 13.4%
(From the World Factbook: http://www.bartleby.com/151/232.html#Economy)
Nuclear debate reaches critical point
swissinfo May 16, 2003 11:58 AM
Campaigners say nuclear power should be replaced with sustainable energy
When the Swiss go to the polls on Sunday, they will once again be asked to
vote on the future of the country's nuclear power programme.
They face two proposals - one to extend the ban on building new plants and
another to close down the industry altogether.
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"Only one of five anti-nuclear proposals put before the Swiss since 1979
has been adopted."
"Switzerland's power plants are mainly from the 60s and 70s - it's old
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Nuclear power currently provides around 40 per cent of Switzerland's
electricity production - the remaining 60 per cent comes from hydropower.
But Greenpeace, which is one of the environmental groups spearheading the
campaign for closure, says the industry has exaggerated its importance in
meeting Switzerland's electricity needs.
"Switzerland is basically swimming in electricity," Greepeace spokeswoman,
Eva Geel, told swissinfo.
"We don't need all the electricity that is being produced by nuclear power
plants - about 25 per cent would be enough because the rest is being
"Efficient alternatives exist, and these should replace nuclear power," she
We don't need all the electricity that is being produced by nuclear power
Eva Geel, Greenpeace
Those alternatives include sustainable forms of energy such as wind and
The anti-nuclear proposal "Strom ohne Atom" calls for a complete closure of
Switzerland's five power stations by 2014.
It wants the shortfall to be made up by sustainable energy sources. But
opponents insist that would be both unrealistic and costly.
"It's an illusion from an economic, technical and ecological point of view
to think that wind or solar power could replace nuclear," power company
spokesman Rolf Schmid told swissinfo.
"It wouldn't be possible to transport enough of the wind energy being
produced in northern Germany, for example, and even if it were, the costs
would be prohibitive," he added.
Schmid claims the only viable alternatives to maintaining Switzerland's
nuclear programme would be to import energy or build new plants driven by
oil, gas or coal - a move, he says, that would not be allowed if the
proposal were passed.
Pro-nuclear supporters also claim that switching to sustainable energy under
the terms of the proposal could cost as much as SFr60 billion ($45.5
They claim that even the "gentler" approach of the second proposal - on
extending the ban on building nuclear plants for another ten years - would
cost the economy around SFr13 billion and lead to thousands of job losses.
Existing plants would be closed down after they had been in operation for 40
years, and permission for them to operate beyond that time would have to be
sought at a nationwide vote.
Geel disputes the figures quoted by the pro-nuclear lobby in the run-up to
the vote, and insists switching to sustainable energy would actually create
employment - albeit in new fields.
"The energy ministry has put the total costs of changing from nuclear to
sustainable energy at between SFr13 and 28 billion," she said.
"That's spread over a 20-year period and equates to SFr3 per person per
week, so we can pay it, no problem."
"It's an illusion... to think that wind or solar power could replace
Rolf Schmid, power company spokesman
Sunday's ballot will not be the first time that the Swiss have been asked to
vote on the future of the country's nuclear industry.
Since 1979 there have been five different anti-nuclear proposals. Only one
of them - in 1990, which called for a ten-year moratorium on the building of
new plants - was successful.
Of Switzerland's neighbours, Germany has already decided to close its 19
nuclear power stations - producing just over 30 per cent of the country's
electricity - by 2021.
France has no plans to close its network of 59 stations, producing 75 per
cent of its electricity, and neither Italy nor Austria have any nuclear
swissinfo, Jonathan Summerton
- Switzerland has five nuclear power stations - the oldest was built in 1969
and the most recent in 1984.
- Around 40 per cent of Switzerland's electricity is produced by nuclear
- The government is recommending a "no" vote to both proposals.
- Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate
- Government's recommendation
- Strom ohne Atom (German)
- Greenpeace Switzerland