"German-style" phase out

3 April 2002

The Swedish government has drafted a new approach to phasing out nuclear power. The energy proposal — which will give the industry a greater say on when to close the reactors — has been presented to the 349-seat Riksdag (parliament).

The new proposal, which is similar to the German phase out plan, suggested giving the power industry a fixed amount of energy to be produced by their nuclear plants. The power companies would then decide on their own when to shut down the reactors. Negotiations with Swedish utilities are expected to start in the autumn.

The government could also offer a reduction, or removal, of the country's special nuclear tax as an incentive. This amounts to around 15% of the total nuclear generation costs, or 21% if outstanding capital costs are excluded.

Energy minister Björn Rosengren insisted the government was still committed to phasing out nuclear power, but added: "It will take 30 to 40 years before it can be phased out." However, prime minister Göran Persson said he thought a 30-year limit was "too long to be politically acceptable." Lars Frithiof, CEO of Sydkraft, said it would be hard to replace nuclear power efficiently, adding: "To substitute for it without heavy economical or environmental consequences for society is a very demanding task." Representatives of the country's Labour Union — a close ally of the Social Democrat minority government — has warned that the "possible German-style" approach could lead to price rises and job losses. The union claimed that the potential removal of up to half of existing electricity generating capacity would lead to fuel price rises. It would also hurt electricity-intensive industries, leading to less investment and job losses.

In 1980, following a referendum, parliament voted to close the country's reactors by 2010. To date, only Barsebäck 1 has been closed, and a tentative closure date for unit 2 has been set for 2003. Its closure is dependent on being able to compensate for the loss of electricity production. Closure of unit 1 in 1999 cost around 800 million Euros and led to the country relying on imports of electricity generated by Danish coal-fired plants.
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