Swedish nuclear plant closure gets green light

Parliament authorises government to shut first plant, compensation could reach SKr20bn (Ecu2.3bn)

The Swedish parliament yesterday authorised closure of a nuclear power station at Barsebäck next year as the first step in a planned complete phase-out of nuclear power in Sweden. In February, the Social Democrat government made a deal with two centre and left opposition parties to phase out nuclear power (ENDS Daily 4 February). The parliament broadly backed the government's energy policy in June.

Against continuing opposition from conservative parties, the parliament has now handed the government the legal power to request Sydkraft, the private operator of Barsebäck, to cease operation of one of two nuclear reactors at the site. The exact date for its closure is to be announced early next year but is likely to be in July.

Swedish industry groups are unhappy at this further endorsement of the government's plans. Deputy director of the Federation of Swedish Industries (FSI) Hans Gustav Wessberg told ENDS Daily today that it was likely to cost the government SKr20bn (Ecu2.3bn) in compensation to Sydkraft.

Mr Wessberg said closure of the Barsebäck reactors would lead to increased electricity prices as Sweden relied more on imports. This could force the closure of some of the most energy-intensive companies, he said, while further closures could threaten the country's mining, paper and pulp and steel industries, which account for a third of export earnings.

A senior industry ministry official dismissed the FSI's objections. Håkan Heden told ENDS Daily that closure of the first two power stations would be compensated for by increased investment in renewable energy and conservation measures. This would also prevent an immediate increase in greenhouse gas emissions - another threat emphasised by industry groups (ENDS Daily 10 October).

As for the remaining phase-out, he said that the parliament had given its backing to this only on condition that it did not result in uncompetitive electricity prices. So the FSI's worries were "rather pointless," he said.

Greenpeace Sweden said it was happy at the parliament's decision, but concerned that the policy could be reversed if conservative parties win next September's general election. Conservative parties are likely to make the nuclear phase-out a central election issue and public opinion is said to be split following a concerted campaign over the last two years by nuclear and energy-intensive industries. "Unfortunately, I would say that more than half of the people do not think it's possible to phase out nuclear power without consequences," Dima Litvinov of Greenpeace told ENDS Daily.

Meanwhile, the nuclear industry's European trade association, Foratom, yesterday stressed that the Swedish parliament's decision went against the vast majority of public opinion. It would make it harder for Sweden to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and would therefore increase the burden on other EU countries in order to make up the EU's joint target.

Follow Up:
Swedish Government, tel: +46 8 405 1000.

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