Sweden, Norway, in row over nuclear phase-out

Swedish minister accuses Norwegian state-owned firm of sabotaging Barsebäck closure

Following an apparently routine meeting of Nordic energy ministers in the Norwegian city of Trondheim yesterday, Anders Sundström, the Swedish Minister of Trade and Industry with responsibility for energy, has in effect accused Norway of sabotaging Sweden's efforts to phase out nuclear power, and in particular to shut down the nuclear reactors at the Barsebäck power station in the south of the country.

Last month, the phase-out plan was set back by Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court, which ruled that the private energy company that runs Barsebäck, Sydkraft, could not be required to close Barsebäck 1, the country's oldest reactor, in July as planned. There will instead be a judicial review of the government's policy, with the added threat of the case being referred to the European Court of Justice (ENDS Daily 15 May).

In an interview published today in the national Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Mr Sundström describes himself as "very irritated over the behaviour of Statkraft," the Norwegian state-owned power supplier and 20% owner of Sydkraft.

According to the minister, Statkraft - working with another member of the consortium, the German nuclear giant Preussen Elektra - is responsible for the recent replacement of Sydkraft's southern Swedish chairman by Hans-Dieter Harig of Preussen. This, Mr Sundström believes, led to the subsequent decision of Sydkraft to oppose the closures, and ultimately to fight the phase-out through the courts.

Statkraft, Mr Sundström says, "has let itself be deluded" by the nuclear industry. "There are very powerful forces that are now using Sydkraft in a greater game. It is no longer the profitable operation of Sydkraft that matters, but the well-being of the nuclear industry. I am convinced that this has been the strategy of Statkraft and Preussen Elektra all along. But it was never expressed so long as the local authorities of southern Sweden were represented by the chairman of Sydkraft."

In reply, the Norwegian oil and energy minister, Marit Arnstad, reiterating earlier statements in parliament, told Aftenposten that the government had no power to influence Statkraft's commercial operations.

Follow Up:
Aftenposten, tel: +47 22 86 30 00.

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