Nuclear power: is Switzerland pulling out? The discussion about extending the service life of the nuclear power plants does not stop



Nuclear power plays an important role in the energy mix of the Alpine republic. The nuclear power plants are to be shut down by 2034. The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has different ideas.

  • The end of the CO2 law is damaging the climate policy of the Alpine republic.
  • The energy industry is still low in emissions, but supply gaps are expected after the nuclear phase-out.
  • The SVP shows that climate policy goals and security of supply could be achieved by extending the term.
  • Important representatives of the SPV mentioned the construction of new nuclear power plants.

Zurich – Switzerland, like many other countries in Europe, is faced with the dilemma of a climate policy that should meet the interests of its own citizens as well as the goal of limiting global warming. Since the Swiss voted no in the June referendum on the CO2 law, this already difficult balancing act has become even more difficult to achieve. The legislative package should help Switzerland halve its emissions by 2030 and thus meet the obligations of the ratified Paris Climate Agreement.

When it comes to climate and energy debates in Switzerland, the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) repeatedly positions itself with its own unusual opinions. One of the party’s preferred topics is the discussion about extending the service life of aging nuclear power plants. After the referendum in June, the SVP even overshot the mark when National Councilor Albert Rösti spoke of building new nuclear power plants.

Is Switzerland phasing out nuclear power? The discussion about extending the service life of the nuclear power plants does not stop

In contrast to Germany, after the reactor accident in Fukushima in 2011, the Swiss decided on an extremely pragmatic and flexible nuclear phase-out. After that, Switzerland will phase out nuclear power by 2034, but will operate the existing Swiss nuclear power plants until 2034 as long as they are safe. In the referendum of 2017, the decision to ban the construction of new nuclear power plants was positive.

The operators of the still existing nuclear power plants must fulfill strict obligations to provide evidence for the continued operation of the power plants. If these cannot be met, the system will be closed. The nuclear power plant in Mühleberg was shut down at the end of 2019. The Beznau-1 plant built in 1969, Beznau-2 from 1972, Gösgen from 1979 and Leibstadt (1984) are still in operation. The Swiss nuclear reactors produce around 22 TWh of electrical energy annually, which covers around 40-45% of the annual electricity consumption in this country.

Just as important for the energy supply of the Alpine state is hydropower, which, however, is significantly less productive in winter due to the weather. So far, this electricity gap has been covered by increased production from the nuclear power plants. However, if more nuclear reactors fall out of the system, it will no longer be possible to meet the increased demand for electricity in Switzerland in winter.

Switzerland: Energy Strategy 2050 and nuclear power – SVP even calls for the construction of new nuclear power plants

At the same time as the referendum to ban the construction of new nuclear power plants, the Confederates voted on Switzerland’s energy strategy *. In place of the nuclear power, which is still active today, solar systems should supply well over a third of the electricity by 2050. This also includes a further upgrade of hydropower, which will then be the most important source of energy with a share of 53 percent. Otherwise, the Swiss energy strategy provides for the production of green hydrogen and the use of CCS (Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage).

This energy strategy was already controversial when it was drawn up. The Council of States Hansjörg Knecht (SVP) was, like many other representatives of his party, already against the energy strategy before the referendum before 2017. Knecht contradicts in an interview with the Aargau Newspaper the meaningfulness of strict compliance with the running time limit for nuclear power plants. The future supply shortfall in particular could lead to expensive power interruptions for companies, said Knecht. In order to counter these dangers, both the issue of extending service life and the construction of new nuclear power plants could become topical again.

SVP in Switzerland is climate-friendly – and thus promotes nuclear power

Magdalena Martullo-Blocher also shares this opinion. As the daughter of Christoph Blocher, who led the SVP to its current political importance, she enjoys recognition and a hearing from functionaries and party members. Albert Rösti (SVP), who was president of the party until 2020, even wants to overturn the ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants. But this should happen with and not against the climate movement.

After the failure of the referendum in June, the SVP is emphatically climate-friendly. There is hardly anything left of the loud criticism against renewables. Rather, the party wants to use climate policy for its goals and emphasizes that energy is produced emission-free through nuclear power and thus it is possible to achieve the climate goals.

However, Rösti and his party friends were sharply thwarted by potential investors from the energy sector in the attempt to build a new nuclear power plant this summer. The energy companies drew attention to the enormous costs and the lack of profitability of nuclear power. (Aleksandra Fedorska) * Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.


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