Switzerland votes for continuous operation of nuclear reactors
On 27 November, Swiss citizens voted by 54% against the Green Party’s initiative to close nuclear power plants (NPPs) after 45 years of operation. It shows that a majority of the population is confident that NPPS are run safely by nuclear operators under the supervision of the nuclear safety regulator and that Swiss citizens are aware of nuclear power’s credentials to ensure security of supply and boost the economy, while reducing CO2 emissions.
Switzerland has five nuclear reactors, which account for around 34% of total electricity production. The adoption of the Green Party’s initiative would have meant that three of them (the Beznau I and II reactors and the Mühleberg reactor) would have closed in 2017, the two remaining ones (Gösgen and Leibstadt), in 2024 and in 2029 respectively. Under the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050, nuclear reactors should continue to operate as long as they are deemed safe by the independent safety regulator (IFSN).
Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world and in Europe (the others are France, Sweden and Norway) that meets or exceeds the recommendation of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of having an electricity mix that consists of at least 80% of low-carbon energy sources. It managed to reach that goal thanks to hydro (60%) and nuclear (34%) power. An early shut down of nuclear reactors could have led to increased CO2 emissions and would also have threatened the country’s energy security of supply.
During a press conference, Doris Leuthard, Swiss energy minister, said after the results of the referendum: “I am relieved of the outcome because it gives us enough time to define our energy transition strategy and expand our electricity grids.” She added that Swiss citizens obviously did not want to take the risk of destabilising the electricity network and increasing electricity imports.
Nuclear power provides 27% of Europe’s electricity and 50% of its low-carbon electricity. The European nuclear industry supports 800,000 jobs and has a turnover of around €70 billion per year. Nuclear power cannot be discarded and should be taken into account in energy decisions at European and national level.
For further information, please read the press release of the Swiss nuclear forum and the results of the referendum on the Swiss government’s website (in French).