The decision by the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (IFSN) to back safety measures prolonging the lifespan of the Mühleberg power plant near Bern until 2019 has come under fire from opponents.
“By capitulating to the economic arguments of the BKW/FMB power company, the IFSN is exposing the populations to a growing nuclear danger,” declared Florian Kasser, a nuclear energy expert for Greenpeace.
The safety inspectorate announced on Tuesday that in view of the limited lifespan of the nuclear plant, which is due to remain operational until 2019, it could accept the alternative safety solutions put forward by BKW/FMB to keep it running until then. The IFSN had set out 18 safety requirements.
Opponents of nuclear energy say the Mühleberg site, Switzerland’s second oldest plant, has been ready for closure for a long time. Groups have been concerned about the stability of the reactor since cracks in the core shroud started forming in the 1990s. They were caused by steel corrosion from coolant.
Regula Rytz, co-president of the Green Party, called the measures “dangerous concessions”, adding that the IFSN had been brought to its knees by the BKW/FMB.
The local power company, meanwhile, welcomed the IFSN’s decision. A total of CHF15 million ($16.7 million) will be invested to meet the operational demands, BKW spokeswoman Murielle Clerc declared.
Switzerland currently has five nuclear reactors which account for about 40% of the energy produced in the country: Beznau I (commissioned in 1969), Beznau II (1972), Mühleberg (1972), Gösgen (1978) and Leibstadt (1984).
After the disaster at Fukushima in March 2011, the Swiss government decided to decommission all the nuclear power plants starting in 2019 and ending by 2034. However, no exact dates were given for shutting down individual reactors.
In October 2013, the Swiss energy company BKW finally announced it would take its Mühleberg nuclear power station off the grid in 2019. The plant is frequently cited by opponents of nuclear energy as ready for closure.
In May 2014, voters in canton Bern rejected a proposal to shut down the Mühleberg power plant immediately.
swissinfo.ch with agencies