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Voters throw out nuclear ban

The Swiss voted to preserve the nuclear industry

(Keystone)

The Swiss have come out in support of nuclear power, ditching two proposals on the future of the industry.

Voters rejected one initiative to extend the existing moratorium on building new plants and another to close down the industry altogether.

Two-thirds voted against the anti-nuclear proposal “Strom ohne Atom”, which called for the complete closure of the country’s nuclear power stations by 2014.

Almost 60 per cent rejected the “MoratoriumPlus” initiative, which sought an extension of the ten-year moratorium on the building of new plants - an initiative that was accepted in 1990.

The outcome of the nuclear vote went the way of the government, which urged voters to throw out both proposals.

But Moritz Leuenberger, the Swiss energy minister, said he did not see the vote as an endorsement of nuclear power.

"I don't think we will build any more nuclear power plants in the near future," he said.

But the anti-nuclear lobby was drew little comfort from the minister's remarks.

"It's a very bad outcome," Patrick Frei, a spokesman for the anti-nuclear campaign, told swissinfo.

"Obviously the pro-nuclear lobby in Switzerland, with their big, big campaign, reached the people."

Power

Nuclear power currently provides around 40 per cent of Switzerland's electricity production - the remaining 60 per cent comes from hydropower.

But Greenpeace, one of the environmental groups that spearheaded the campaign for a shutdown, argued that there were efficient alternatives that could replace nuclear power.

Those alternatives include sustainable forms of energy such as wind and solar power.

"For us it's clear the problems with security of nuclear power plants and waste disposal remain. We still need a big investment in renewable energy," added Frei.

"Sooner or later we have to replace the nuclear power plants, either because of age or because of security problems. The initiatives would have given us a clear plan for the future."

Renewable energy

Rolf Schmid, a spokesman for the pro-nuclear lobby, admitted that more money needed to be invested in renewable energy, but not at the expense of nuclear power.

"It's an illusion from an economic, technical and ecological point of view to think that wind or solar power could replace nuclear," he said.

"I think this is a good result for us and a good result for Switzerland. I think it's also a clear signal that the Swiss people want to have a mix, with 60 per cent hydropower and 40 per cent nuclear power."

He also claimed that the only possible alternatives to nuclear power would be to import energy or build new plants generated by oil, gas or coal.

Sunday's ballot was not the first time the Swiss have been asked to vote on the future of their nuclear industry.

There have been five different anti-nuclear proposals since 1979. Only one proved successful - in 1990 - which introduced a ten-year moratorium on the building of new plants.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling

Nuclear summary

Switzerland has five nuclear power stations - the oldest was built in 1969 and the most recent in 1984.
Around 40 per cent of Switzerland's electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.
The government recommended a "no" vote to both proposals.

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