Switzerland Votes Not To Abolish Nuclear Power After All


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Swiss voters rejected plans to shut down most of the country’s nuclear industry in a referendum Sunday, with 54.2 percent voting against the initiative.

If it had been successful, the vote would have forced the country to shut down three of the country’s five nuclear reactors next year, with the remainging pair of reactors shutting down by 2029. The initiative would have limited the life span of nuclear plants to 45 years, so the newest of the plants, which began operating in 1984, would have had to close in 2029.

Switzerland gets about 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association.

“We would have liked to win, that’s clear, but 45 percent for ‘yes’ is a good result,” Regula Rytz, the chairwoman of the Swiss Green party, told a local television station. “The problems haven’t been resolved with this referendum Sunday.”

Under Switzerland’s constitution, proposals need support from both a majority of the country’s equivilent of states and a majority of the national vote to pass. Only six of Switzerland’s 26 states backed the nuclear shut down plan, and only 45.8 percent of the population voted for it.

Western European countries have broadly shifted away from nuclear power, particularly in neighboring Germany, where the government decided to abandon nuclear energy entirely.

In the year 2000, nuclear power made up 29.5 percent of Germany’s energy. By 2015, that share has dropped down to 17 percent. By 2022, Germany intends to shutdown every one of its nuclear plants. The German government estimates the cost of replacing nuclear power with wind and solar is estimated to be over one trillion euros without any assurances the program will actually reduce emissions.

Nuclear power’s decline in Europe has created an opening for coal power. Coal now provides 44 percent of Germany’s power. This shift caused Germany’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to actually rise by 28 million tons each year.

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