Poll shows increased support for new nuclear in Sweden

22 January 2008

A new public opinion poll suggests that almost half of Swedes support the construction of new nuclear power plants in the country, despite Sweden's policy for phasing out nuclear energy. The survey indicated widely varying opinions according to political affiliation.

The poll, conducted by Synovate Temo on behalf of newspaper Dagens Nyheter, found that 48% of respondents back the construction of new reactors, while 39% are opposed and 13% were undecided. The poll was conducted between 14 and 17 January, with 1026 people questioned.

Dagens Nyheter noted that support for the construction of new nuclear power plants in Sweden has never been above 35% in previous polls. However, the newspaper said that comparison with earlier polls is difficult because of differences in how past surveys were conducted. The new poll marks the first time that voters were asked the question directly on whether or not they support nuclear new build.

A breakdown of the results of the poll by political affiliation show that of the four ruling parties, three are strongly for nuclear power and one is firmly against. In the governing Alliance parties (a centre-right coalition), support for new plants is high among respondents identifying with both the Moderate Party and the Liberal Party, while about half of Christian Democratic voters support nuclear new build. However, 69% of Centre Party voters are opposed to new plants. The Centre Party has traditionally been more opposed to nuclear energy but has in recent years shown some softening of its stance.

Among the opposition parties, just over half of Social Democratic voters said they favoured constructing new plants. However, 78% of Left Party supporters and 66% of Green Party voters said they strongly opposed building new nuclear reactors in Sweden.

Last week, the Liberal Party called for the country to build four new reactors in its preliminary climate strategy. According to a previous report in Dagens Nyheter,
 party leader Jan Bjorklund called for new reactors to be built soon after the next election, due in 2010, as well as replacing the country's ten existing nuclear reactors with new nuclear capacity in due course. This would mean abandoning the country's ban on nuclear construction and plans for a phaseout of nuclear power put in place by a previous government.

Sweden's decision to ban new nuclear build and ultimately phase out nuclear power was reached following a 1980 referendum. Originally the plans had been for all nuclear units to close by 2010, but although two reactors at the Barseback nuclear power station were closed in 1999 and 2005, the country's other operating units have since been reprieved. Since the referendum, nuclear operators have added the equivalent of an entire new reactor in output through capacity uprates.