Foreign Policy Blogs

Swiss Opt to Go Nuke-Free by 2034

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.



Jeff Myhre
Jeff Myhre

Jeff Myhre is a graduate of the University of Colorado where he double majored in history and international affairs. He earned his PhD at the London School of Economics in international relations, and his dissertation was published by Westview Press under the title The Antarctic Treaty System: Politics, Law and Diplomacy. He is the founder of The Kensington Review, an online journal of commentary launched in 2002 which discusses politics, economics and social developments. He has written on European politics, international finance, and energy and resource issues in numerous publications and for such private entities as Lloyd's of London Press and Moody's Investors Service. He is a member of both the Foreign Policy Association and the World Policy Institute.