Political pressure closes Barsebäck 1

23 December 1999

Sydkraft has shut down Barsebäck unit 1 following an agreement between it, the government and another Swedish nuclear utility, Vattenfall. Unit 1 closed on 30 November. Simultaneously Vattenfall began to supply Sydkraft with equivalent power from its Ringhals nuclear power station.
The closure precipitated a restructuring of the management of both Barsebäck Unit 2 and Ringhals. Both will be merged into a single corporate group, with Vattenfall owning 74.2% and Sydkraft 25.8%. Vattenfall will receive SEK 2.65 billion (€336 million) compensation from the government for transferring 25.8% of Ringhals to Sydkraft. Vattenfall will also receive 74.2% of the electricity production at Barsebäck 2 and Sydkraft will pay SEK 113 million (€14 million) each year to Vattenfall to compensate for the fact that production costs are higher at Barsebäck 2 than at Ringhals.
Sydkraft will maintain Barsebäck 1 in a mothballed condition until the decision is ratified by the Swedish parliament; likely to take until next May. The reactor could produce power within two weeks of a decision to restart it. Should this not happen, Sydkraft will start to decommission the plant.
The decision to close Barsebäck 1 follows a referendum in 1980 when the Swedish people decided to exit nuclear power by 2010. It is unlikely that Sweden will achieve this aim within the next decade, but the government has portrayed the Barsebäck closure as the first step. The next reactor due to close is Barsebäck 2, which the government hopes to shut down by the end of 2001. But this will depend on Sweden managing to replace the unit’s 4 TWh per year capacity with renewable sources.
The power shortfall caused by Barsebäck 1’s closure is being made up through imports from Denmark and Norway. But it has exposed southern Sweden to the risk of electricity shortages, especially if the winter is cold. Temperatures of -15°C or lower, could result in demand outstripping supply.
Each reactor closure will make Sweden’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gases harder to achieve. The country is committed to returning to 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2000, but is currently 6-7% above this figure. 90% of the electricity from Denmark is produced in coal fired stations.
According to Vattenfall, opinion polls suggest that 80% of Sweden’s population would rather see nuclear reactors run to the end of their operating lives, rather than being closed down early.

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