Sweden’s parliament, in defiance of a 1980 referendum when the electorate voted to phase out nuclear power, has repealed the legislation that followed the referendum and will now allow the building of new nuclear power plant to maintain its existing fleet.

The new build will be permitted from next year as the present moratorium on nuclear power is replaced by a decision to allow replacement build limited by a new set of restrictions.

After a debate in the Riksdag on 17 June in which Sweden’s need for climate friendly, low carbon energy that did not force the import of fossil fuel was opposed by environmental concerns over nuclear energy, MPs voted 174 to 172 in favour of resumption. The vote will allow Swedish firms to replace the existing ten reactors at Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals that provide over 40% of the country’s electricity. Construction is expected to begin next year immediately after the new law comes into force on January 1st. It will embody restrictions that permit new reactors only at the existing three power plants, and each new reactor may only begin operation as an older one is permanently shut down. None of the current fleet should need replacement before the 2030s.

The 1980 decision offered the public three different ways to end nuclear power but none to allow it to continue normally. In the intervening years Swedish utilities have concentrated on maintaining and uprating the ten existing reactors, adding 1050 MW in extra generating capacity. Two reactors at Barsebäck were shut down prematurely following political pressure from Denmark, leading to a net loss of about 200 MWe.

Sweden’s centre-Left opposition, currently running neck and neck with the government in opinion polls ahead of elections is September, have vowed to reinstate the ban.

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