Mini nuclear power plants could prevent winter blackouts in Switzerland

Mini nuclear power plants could prevent winter blackouts in Switzerland

The Swiss government is considering a modern solution to predicted energy shortages across the country: small modular reactors (SMRs) - described as “mini nuclear power plants” - could provide a reliable alternative to wind and solar power, as well as conventional nuclear plants. 

Energy shortages are predicted in Switzerland

A study produced on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy has recently warned that Switzerland could face up to 500 hours (almost 21 days) without electricity by March 2021, in a worst-case scenario. 

Especially in the winter, consumption of electricity in Switzerland typically increases, since people rely more on heating systems and lighting. This means that the country is at its greatest risk of electricity shortages and blackouts during the winter season. 

Under new government policies, the country is also moving away from using fossil fuels to provide energy, switching instead to new, renewable sources of power, such as solar and wind. Unfortunately, since these energy sources are driven by the weather, they can be unreliable at times when the energy demand is highest, increasing the likelihood of blackouts across Switzerland. 

Small modular reactors are the future

Thought to be safer and easier to build than conventional nuclear power stations, small modular reactors are said to be the future of renewable energy. Due to the smaller size and improved safety of the reactors, the emergency planning zones (EPZ) around the reactors are much smaller, reducing construction costs and the amount of land required to build a reactor. 

SMRs are also safer than conventional nuclear reactors, since any incidents can be more efficiently contained. These two facts taken together mean that several SMRs could, in theory, be placed closer to cities and urban areas in order to provide a safe, reliable and renewable source of energy in Switzerland. 

Switzerland has no energy agreements with its neighbours

Switzerland’s energy problem is also compounded by the fact that it is unable to import electricity, due to the lack of an agreement with its neighbours. The European Union and Switzerland have failed to reach a cooperative solution to the subject in the past, meaning that Switzerland cannot rely on the EU to supply energy in a crisis. 

It is hoped that in the future, the country can have further discussions with the bloc and secure an energy deal, but in the meantime, the Swiss government will continue to draw up plans to produce electricity on its own. 

While SMR technology is only just beginning to come into reality, several countries have already committed to investing in the reactors. The French and British governments have invested heavily in the technology, with the French government planning to have operational SMRs from 2030.



Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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