Switzerland’s government has decided to go nuclear-free in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Last week-end, 20,000 rallied against nuclear power. Earlier today, the cabinet decided to build no new fission plants while allowing those currently on line to operate through their designed lifespan. “Existing nuclear power plants will be closed at the end of their operative life and not replaced by new nuclear power plants,” the government said in a statement. The oldest is due to close down in 2019, and the newest will come offline in 2034.
The Swiss have 5 plants that provide about 40% of the country’s electricity. Most of the rest is hydro-electric, which allows Switzerland to export power during wet years, but requires imports during drier spells. The Swiss Office of Energy has said, “Electricity consumption in Switzerland increased by 4% in 2010 to 59.8 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). Domestic power plants generated 66.3 billion kWh, or 0.4% less electricity than in 2009. With imports at 66.8 billion kWh and exports of 66.3 billion kWh, an excess of imports in electricity was recorded in 2010, as in the years 2005 and 2006.”
The upshot is that replacing the power that comes from nuclear plants between now and 2034 is not going to be a huge problem given the time horizon involved.
What could complicate the equation is Germany’s June 6 vote on ending nuclear power there and shutting down all of its reactors within a decade. If that occurs, Switzerland will find the European electrical market an expensive one.
Naturally, the Swiss are not united on this decision.