Thursday, 13 October 2016

All Change in Switzerland?

Switzerland has four nuclear plants supplying over a third of its electricity.

On the surface, it looks bad for nuclear power in Switzerland. In May 2011, following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the Swiss government passed "Energy Strategy 2050" programme, promoting renewables, but banning new nuclear power. Recently Swiss utilities Axpo, Alpiq and BKW withdrew their joint request to build nuclear plants. The Swiss Green Party, supported by Greenpeace, are behind a referendum on Nov 27 to close reactors early: Beznau I & II, and Muehleberg in 2017, with two remaining stations to follow in 2024 and 2029.

One the other hand: When put to a referendum the Swiss people consistently support nuclear power (apart from one 1990 vote). A 2014 poll showed the Swiss strongly in favour of keeping existing nuclear power plants, with 64% saying existing reactors are essential. The largest political party: Swiss People's Party (SVP), who are out of office, will push for a referendum via the Swiss system of direct democracy to dump the "Energy Strategy 2050". They delayed their referendum demand because they sought support from business which was not forthcoming. Despite this setback, the right-wing party says it is launching the referendum with the support of associations and businesses, including Swissmem who represent the machine, electrical and metal industries.

History of Swiss nuclear power referendums
1979A citizens' initiative for nuclear safetyrejected
1984"for a future without further nuclear power stations"55% to 45% against.
1990"stop the construction of nuclear power stations," proposing a 10-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plantspassed with 54.5% to 45.5%
1990The initiative for a phase-outrejected by 53% to 47.1%
2000Green Tax for support of solar energyrejected by 67% to 31%.
2003"Electricity without Nuclear," asking for a decision on a nuclear power phase-outrejected 33.7% Yes, 66.3% No
2003"Moratorium Plus," for an extension of the earlier decided moratorium (in 1990) on the construction of new nuclear power plantsrejected 41.6% Yes, 58.4%

Swiss federal election, 2015
% vote
29.4%Swiss People's
18.8%Social Democrats
16.4%FDP (Liberals)
11.6%Christian Democrats
4.6%Green Liberals

Opinion Poll

Telephone interviews of 1,200 Swiss citizens, from Oct 3 to Oct 14, found the Swiss overwhelmingly in favour of the Greenpeace / Green Party proposal for a quick nuclear power phase out. 57% to 36%. With 7% undecided and a margin of error of 3%. Despite this, many analysts think the Swiss may reject Green Party proposals for an early nuclear power phase out on Nov 27! That's because participation in the national referendum isn't expected to be about 45%.

Notes, links

  1. Swiss utilities throw in towel over new nuclear plants
  2. SVP launch challenge to energy strategy
  3. Swiss government opposes campaign for quick nuclear exit
  4. Nuclear power in Switzerland (Wikipedia)
  5. 'Swiss want say on nuclear phase out'
  6. Telephone poll shows Swiss favour phase out by big majority.

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