Swedish court confirms nuclear plant closure

First Barsebäck reactor to close by November, paving way for complete nuclear phase-out

Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court today upheld the government's right to order the decommissioning of a nuclear reactor at the Barsebäck plant in Malmö - paving the way for a complete phase-out of nuclear power in the country. Five senior judges ruled unanimously that there was no fundamental reason under national or EU law to prohibit closure by the end of November.

Operating company Sydkraft had asked for a judicial review of a government demand last February that it close both nuclear reactors at Barsebäck by 2001 (ENDS Daily 15 May 1998). Sydkraft managing director Lars Frithiof said today that the court ruling was "deplorable ... an outrage." Company lawyers are now studying the 85-page judgement before deciding whether there are grounds for bringing the case to the European Court of Justice.

Sydkraft had argued that the government move conflicted with EU rules on free competition, free movement of capital and the prohibition of restrictions on exports. The court found, however, that although a government law on phasing out nuclear power was unclear on some points, there was no fundamental conflict with national or EU law. It added that Sydkraft had been offered sufficient compensation. Part of the company's case had rested on the fact that the Swedish government is effectively a competitor, through its ownership of Sweden's largest power company, Vattenfall.

The court's decision has been hailed as a great victory by Greenpeace's Nordic office, which said today that it had opened the door to a full nuclear phase out in Sweden. The Danish government is also likely to welcome moves to close Barsebäck, which is only a short distance from Copenhagen.

However, Sydkraft's Mr Frithiof claimed the judgement meant that "Swedish electricity supplies, the environment, the economy and the industrial climate will deteriorate." He said Barsebäck 1's output would mainly be replaced by power from coal-fired power stations in Denmark, adding to greenhouse gas emissions. The company has already lodged a complaint with the European Commission's department dealing with the internal market, in the hope that it might support a move in the European Court of Justice.

A nuclear phase-out is also in conflict with public opinion, Sydkraft claims. It said that in a poll conducted by leading firm Sifo on Tuesday and due for publication tomorrow, 82% of people questioned supported the continuation of nuclear power, with 20% actually wanting it expanded. This is up from 60% last autumn. The poll reportedly found only 16% of people to favour a phase-out.

Follow Up:
Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, tel: +46 8 617 6200; Sydkraft, tel: +46 40 25 50 00.

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