Industry warns of high cost of abandoning nuclear power

Switzerland's nuclear industry has warned that closing down the country's four nuclear power stations would cost the economy SFr40 billion. Nuclear energy currently meets 40 per cent of Switzerland's electricity needs.

This content was published on February 22, 2000 - 17:28

Switzerland's nuclear industry has warned that closing down the country's four nuclear power stations would cost the economy SFr40 billion. Nuclear energy currently meets 40 per cent of Switzerland's electricity needs.

However, environmental groups have attacked the claims, suggesting they fail to take account of the costs of decommissioning the plants when they become obsolete, nor of the potential costs of a nuclear accident.

The industry figure comes from a study carried out on its behalf by the Energy Institute in Bremen, Germany. It was commissioned in response to two people's initiatives, one proposing the closure of all nuclear power stations in the country, the other calling for a moratorium on building new plants.

The first proposal envisages the closure of all Swiss nuclear plants by 2015. The latter would extend a ten-year ban on building new plants adopted following a nationwide vote in 1990.

The study says the more radical proposal would cost the Swiss economy SFr40 billion, while a moratorium would cost SFr29 billion.

It also makes the point that nuclear plants do not produce harmful emissions and warns that closing down the industry could have a damaging effect on air quality and lead to more emissions of greenhouse gases.

Professor Silvio Borner of Basel University, who presented the findings in Berne on Tuesday, said the Swiss power stations were competitive, even in a liberalised electricity market.

"It makes no sense to close down functioning nuclear power stations, at great expense, only to buy electricity from French nuclear power plants, probably at higher prices," said Peter Wiederkehr, manager of one the power-gererating companies concerned.

"And one can't call for an improvement in the quality of the air, and at the same time replace nuclear plants with power stations that burn fossil fuels and generate carbon dioxide emissions," he added.

However, the findings of the report have been attacked by environmental organisations. WWF Switzerland has pointed out that the economic calculations fail to take into account the possible human and environmental costs of a nuclear accident .

Greenpeace, meanwhile, has criticised the report for playing down the costs of decommissioning obsolete nuclear installations, and for overestimating the useful lifespan of Switzerland's nuclear plants.

From staff and wire reports


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