Swiss want say on nuclear phase out

23 January 2014

Nuclear energy is an essential part of Switzerland's energy mix and more debate is needed about its planned phase out, a poll of attitudes towards nuclear power in the country shows.

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The single-unit Mühleberg plant is due to shut down in 2019 (Image: BKW)

The poll - the latest conducted annually since 2001 by market research company DemoScope on behalf of Swiss nuclear trade organisation swissnuclear - questioned 2200 people in October 2013.

Some 64% of respondents said that they considered Switzerland's five existing reactors essential in meeting the country's electricity demand. This is around the average level reported since the first poll in 2001, but marks a 3% increase from 2012.

There was also high support for the continued use of nuclear power, with 68% of people saying that Switzerland's existing reactors should remain in operation as long as they are safe. This compares with 62% of respondents in previous year. Three-quarters of those questioned consider Swiss nuclear power plants to be safe.

While 62% said that there are cost advantages to using nuclear energy, recognition of its environmental benefits is low when compared with countries such as the USA and UK. Only 42% of respondents said they believe that existing nuclear power plants play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Phase out policy

Switzerland's federal government has already decided to phase out the five nuclear reactors, which generate 40% of the country's electricity, by not replacing them with new nuclear capacity at the end of their anticipated working lives. The move would effectively see all of Switzerland's nuclear power plants shut by 2035. The decision came in response to the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, despite a referendum the previous month that supported replacement reactors. However, legislation to formalise that phase out decision has stilled to be enacted, as is an energy policy that provides for replacement capacity.

The results of the poll suggest that Switzerland's phase out policy is not fully supported by the Swiss people. Some 73% want Switzerland to be able to produce all of its electricity (75% in 2012), while 78% do not want federal policies to lead to Switzerland being more dependent on other countries. Some 88% of respondents said that the country's energy transition must not endanger its security of supply, up from 84% in previous year.

According to the latest poll, as in 2012, 58% of Swiss people want to maintain the existing share of nuclear and hydro in the country's energy mix until the costs and impacts of the energy transition become clearer.

Some 78% of people said they want to be able to vote on Switzerland's energy transition and nuclear phase out.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News