Initiative launched to lift the ban on new nuclear power plants in Switzerland
After a recent Tamedia poll found strong support for nuclear power in Switzerland, the Swiss Energy Club (ECS) has launched a new initiative that hopes to reverse the ban on new nuclear power plants in the country. With experts predicting continued energy shortages in the alpine nation by 2025, the ECS hopes that nuclear power will help the country become more self-sufficient.
ECS: Switzerland needs nuclear energy in future
"We cannot do without nuclear power plants," noted ECS president Vanessa Meury. Speaking to SonntagsZeitung, she said that current plans for energy in Switzerland are based on “castles in the sky,” and that the country needs a "safe, independent and clean" energy supply which includes nuclear power.
The referendum called for an energy grid where "all climate-friendly types of electricity generation are permitted." If approved, the initiative will also amend the Nuclear Energy Act and scrap the ban on constructing new nuclear power plants in Switzerland.
Why are new nuclear power plants banned in Switzerland?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the Federal Council said that it was in favour of phasing out the then four remaining nuclear power plants in the country. This was confirmed by a referendum in 2017 where 58 percent of Swiss citizens voted to gradually phase out nuclear power and ban the construction of any new nuclear facilities. The Mühleberg power plant in Canton Bern was the first to be closed in 2019.
However, SonntagsZeitung noted that since the vote, nuclear power has experienced a revival as a way to fight climate change, with French President Emmanuel Macron announcing that he intends to build 14 new nuclear plants in the near future. Even Japan’s government said that it was considering building new plants.
Supporters in Switzerland have been buoyed by the fact that 85 percent of the population either support the building of new nuclear plants, or want to keep current plants running to prevent blackouts in the future, according to the latest polling. "If it becomes necessary to secure the supply in the event of an emerging power shortage, the federal government must be able to build power plants itself," noted National Councillor Marcel Dobler.
Opponents of ECS welcome chance to vote against referendum
However, not all are in favour of the switch, with the Non-partisan Alliance writing in a statement that “new nuclear power plants have no place in the energy strategy. We resolutely reject the new popular initiative." This was echoed by the Swiss Energy Foundation, who claimed that the ECS plan is “destructive and offers no solutions.”
Allianz nuclear phase-out president Christian van Singer welcomed the idea of a vote, telling 20 minuten that "a clear no at the ballot box [would be] the strongest sign that Switzerland does not want to reverse the nuclear phase-out, but finally wants to complete it." The ECS proposal is now gathering signatures in order to become a referendum.