Swiss utilities Axpo, Alpiq and BKW have jointly agreed to withdraw the framework permit applications for replacement NPPs, which were submitted in 2008 and postponed in 2011, they said in a joint statement on 12 October. The applications were frozen in the wake of the Fukushima accident, which also led to a Swiss decision to phase out all NPPs by 2050. “The energy world has changed fundamentally since the framework permit applications for replacement nuclear power plants were submitted in the year 2008,” a joint statement read. “Today the market is a very different one, and in the meantime, policy-makers have set the course for a future without nuclear power.”

The application had envisaged three new plants – Beznau III, Gösgen II and a replacement for the Mühleberg NPP. Withdrawing the request has cost the three companies a combined CHF80m ($81m) in planning expenses. Some 40% of Switzerland's energy comes from its five nuclear units. Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050 plans to bridge the gap through increased use of hydropower and alternative energy sources and with energy efficiencies.

The right-wing People’s Party has threatened to challenge this strategy, arguing against a complete phase out of nuclear power. However, voters will decide in November on a Green Party initiative, calling for the accelerated decommissioning of the five plants. The world’s two oldest working nuclear plants currently operate in Switzerland – Beznau (built in 1969) in canton Aargau and Mühleberg, canton Bern. Both are scheduled to be mothballed in 2019.

The Swiss government opposes will oppose the Green initiative, Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said on 11 October. While the government aims to exit nuclear energy eventually, she told a news conference in Bern, the proposal to be decided by referendum in November is premature, leaving Switzerland unable to replace power output with energy from renewables. A hasty shutdown, would leave damage Switzerland's energy security, boost dependence on German coal-fired power and expose taxpayers to utilities' demands for remuneration, she said.