Swedish utility Vattenfall has launched a joint venture project with some of the country's leading industrial companies to secure future power supplies, possibly through the construction of new nuclear power reactors.
State-owned Vattenfall has signed a letter of intent regarding joint energy production with Industrikraft i Sverige AB - a newly formed company owned equally by mining and smelting company Boliden, Eka Chemicals (part of Akzo Nobel), and paper and pulp companies Holmen, Stora Enso and SCA Forest Products.
In a statement, Vattenfall said, "At the heart of the collaboration is the shared view that there will be a shortage in baseload power once Sweden's nuclear plants are decommissioned. These will have to be replaced with new baseload power that is carbon-free."
The agreement between Vattenfall and Industrikraft outlines a range of options for possible joint venture development areas, which includes renewable energy sources and nuclear power.
Magnus Hall, chairman of Industrikraft, said: "We are focused on setting up and taking part in concrete projects for new baseload power. Naturally, we see nuclear power as one alternative, but we will also be studying other options."
"As far as Vattenfall is concerned, we are extremely pleased to be continuing our close collaboration with representatives of Swedish industry and working together on the energy solutions of the future, including renewable energy sources," commented Hans von Uthmann, senior executive vice president of Vattenfall AB and head of Vattenfall Nordic.
Vattenfall said, "The next phase of the joint venture involves examining and deciding on concrete collaborative projects."
Sweden conducted a referendum in 1980 in which the public voted never to build a new nuclear power station but to allow the twelve existing reactors to live out a 25-year lifespan. Legislation then set 2010 as the shutdown date for all the country's nuclear power plants. However, since then nuclear power stations have been shown to have considerably longer economic lifespans of up to 60 years and no large scale low-carbon alternative has been developed. Sweden currently gets about half its electricity from nuclear, and about half from large hydroelectric dams.
Over recent years, there has been a shift in public opinion in support of nuclear energy as well as a move away from anti-nuclear policies by the country's political parties. In February, the coalition government moved to scrap old anti-nuclear policies, saying that it would allow new reactors to be built on existing sites to replace old units.
Vattenfall operates seven of Sweden's ten operating nuclear power reactors - four units at Ringhals and three at Forsmark with a combined capacity of just over 6000 MWe.