Swiss parliament approves nuclear plant phase out

Last Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 00:15

Geneva: The Swiss parliament`s upper house
on Wednesday approved plans to phase out the country`s nuclear plants
over the next two decades in the wake of the Fukushima
disaster in Japan.

It followed a June vote by the lower chamber to back an
exit from nuclear energy recommended by the government, which
had earlier frozen plans for a new construction programme
after the Fukushima atomic plant explosion.

Bern said it would count on the development of its
already considerable hydro-electric plants and other renewable
energy to make up for the loss of nuclear power, while not
ruling out importing electricity.

If necessary the country could also fall back on
electricity produced by fossil fuels, a statement added, while
still respecting targets set under Switzerland`s climate
change policy.

Under the government`s recommendation, the first nuclear
plant to be shut down would be Beznau I in 2019, followed by
Beznau II and Muehleberg in 2022, Goegen in 2029 and Leibstadt
in 2034.

The government predicted that such a programmed phasing
out nuclear energy would favour businesses involved in green
technology, boost employment and help Switzerland deal with
expected rising electricity prices in Europe.

Initial calculations estimate that the cost of reshaping
the country`s energy resources, offset by measures to cut
consumption, would cost the country between 0.4 percent and
0.7 percent of gross domestic product per year.

Environment and Energy Minister Doris Leuthard also noted
that nuclear energy was anyway becoming more expensive, due to
the rising cost of making plants safer and more secure.
However, the move to halt atomic energy was opposed by
the federation of Swiss businesses EconomieSuisse, which had
slammed it as an "irresponsible decision."

The association of Swiss electricity companies applauded
the decision for a progressive end to nuclear energy, rather
than an immediate stop.

"The continuation of these plants gives us time to
find solutions amid a shortage as well as implement more
efficient measures," it said.

However, the association stressed that the population
must be given a say in the decision.

Environmental group Green Cross International`s president
Mikhail Gorbachev meanwhile welcomed Switzerland`s decision.
"I applaud Switzerland for taking this brave step towards
ending its reliance on nuclear energy," he said in a
statement.

"The ghastly memories of Chernobyl and now Fukushima are
too fresh and vivid to allow us to ponder any other
alternative than ending our reliance on nuclear energy," added
the former Russian president.

Besides Switzerland, Germany has also opted to shut down
all of its nuclear reactors by the end of 2022 after the
Fukushima plant was wrecked by a tsunami sparked by a
devastating earthquake.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 00:15

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