Sweden faces future without nuclear

01 October 2014

Sweden may be facing the phase out of nuclear power following agreement by the country's Social Democrats and their junior coalition partner, the Green Party, to set up an energy commission tasked with achieving a 100% renewable electricity system. 

Sweden's outgoing centre-right governing coalition of four parties agreed in 2009 that new reactors could be built to replace ageing ones. Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven had said that nuclear power would be needed for "the foreseeable future", while the Greens want to see more of Sweden's reactors closed in the next four years.

Lofven's opposition party emerged as victor in the general election on 14 September, but with no clear parliamentary majority. With 31.0% of the vote, the Social Democrats were ahead of 23.3% for Fredrik Reinfeldt's Moderate Party and 12.9% for the far-right Sweden Democrats. The Green Party achieved 6.9%.

Lofven said in a statement today: "Sweden has very good potential to expand renewable energy through our good access to water, wind and forests. In time, Sweden will have an energy system with 100% renewable energy."

That would imply having to replace the 40% of Sweden's power supply that comes from nuclear energy in an average year.

The parties said in separate, but identical statements that nuclear power should be replaced with renewable energy and energy efficiency. The goal, they said, should be at least 30 TWh of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. A goal for 2030 has yet to be set, they added. Support for offshore wind and solar power are needed "in addition", they said.

Nuclear power "should bear a greater share of its economic cost", they said. "Safety requirements should be strengthened and the nuclear waste fee increased."

Waste management in Sweden is undertaken by SKB while safety regulations are set by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. Both of these operate independently of government.

State-owned utility Vattenfall's plan to build a new nuclear power plant has been "interrupted"and the company will lead the country's energy system towards a higher share for renewable energy, they said.

Bad for Sweden

Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said the parties' statement indicates "a very bad situation for Sweden."

"There is big support for using nuclear power in the country and the electricity system is working very well. From regulation to the operation of nuclear power plants, to a fully-costed system for taking care of the waste, there are no major obstacles in the way of the system, which has worked well for more than 40 years," Rising said.

"Sweden has an electricity system that is almost optimal when you consider that nearly 50% comes from nuclear power and nearly 50% from hydro power. It is a clean, competitive and stable electricity system. To get out of that situation, which every other country would dream of being in, is bad news for Sweden and a bad example for the rest of the world."

Rising warned that closing operating reactors would be costly and could lead to utilities having less money to invest in renewables. Sweden already has one of the best records in the world on carbon dioxide emissions per capita, she added.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News