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Electricity liberalisation poses safety threat at nuclear plants

The energy ministry has warned that the planned liberalisation of the country's electricity market could lead to cost-cutting measures affecting nuclear safety.

The energy ministry has warned that the planned liberalisation of the country's electricity market could lead to cost-cutting measures affecting nuclear safety. The office for nuclear security said it expected power suppliers to cut costs in order to become more competitive.

At its annual meeting, the director of the office, Wolfgang Jeschki, said it would do everything possible to ensure that current safety standards were upheld. The meeting concluded that Switzerland's nuclear plants are in good condition and well run. It reported 16 "incidents" at the plants last year, but described them as having posed little threat to safety.

The nuclear authorities also indicated that they had taken no decisions concerning the reprocessing of nuclear waste from the plants. Transports of spent fuel rods to the British Sellafield plant were suspended last month after Britain closed it down due to safety concerns. The office said Switzerland would continue its transports to the French plant in La Hague, but would have to wait for a decision on Sellafield by the British authorities.

In a related development, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has rejected a complaint by a group of Swiss citizens who opposed the extension of the operating licence for the Beznau nuclear plant. Thirteen people said the plant in canton Aargau is unsafe, and the Swiss government had denied them a say in the licence-granting process.

The court in Strasbourg ruled that the use of nuclear power was a policy decision to be made by governments, and the plaintiffs were not entitled to go beyond the Swiss civil code to oppose the licence extension.

swissinfo with agencies




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