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Greenpeace focuses on nuclear vote

Greenpeace Switzerland says renewable energy sources can replace atomic power. Greenpeace

Ridding Switzerland of nuclear power is the biggest challenge in the immediate future says the new director of Greenpeace Switzerland.

This content was published on October 23, 2001 - 19:26

In an interview with swissinfo, Kaspar Schuler outlined his vision for the future. He also described how far the global organisation has come in the last 30 years since a ship set sail from Canada to try to stop American nuclear testing in Alaska.

Nuclear power currently accounts for 40 per cent of Swiss electricity production compared with about 60 per cent from hydroelectric power. Only a tiny percentage currently comes from other renewable sources.

Next year, voters in Switzerland are due to have the final say on two proposals aimed at phasing out nuclear energy.

One people's initiative calls for the closing down of all nuclear power plants within ten years and an immediate halt to the reprocessing of spent fuel rods. The other aims at extending a moratorium for the building of new nuclear power plants.

"The most important issue is to get off atomic energy," said Schuler. "The big task is explaining to people that it is not a question of losing the electricity supply in Switzerland. We have a range of possibilities to replace nuclear power - solar energy, wind power plants and so on."

Fighting for our home

Schuler's green awakening came in Val Madris in canton Graubunden, where he spent 13 summers working as a herdsman and cheesemaker.

"In my sixth summer, some of the biggest Swiss electricity companies intended to build a dam," he said. "For us this was very shocking. From one day to the next engineers suddenly appeared, geologists were working with dynamite to test the ground and we were fighting for our home."

Opposition took many forms, from building up grassroots protests to influencing the Swiss parliament. "It took 13 years to get these plans shelved."

From its humble origins 30 years ago, Greenpeace has grown into a global organisation with offices in 39 countries. Internationally it has campaigned with success for a ban on commercial whaling, the protection of Antarctica, an end to nuclear testing and the elimination of dumping nuclear wastes at sea.

"I think Greenpeace's major role is to put issues on the international agenda," said Schuler. "Media images of Greenpeace campaigns have made it impossible for governments and multinationals to deny environmental problems."

by Vincent Landon

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