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Council of States has new nuclear power plant examined as a “possible scenario”

The Council of States is shaking up the 2017 ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants. It has adopted a postulate stating that the construction of new nuclear power plants should be examined as a "possible scenario" to secure the electricity supply.

The sentence is part of a postulate by FDP President Thierry Burkart, the individual points of which were adopted by a clear majority in the Council of States on Wednesday. The proposal will therefore be passed on to the Federal Council for implementation.

In the postulate, the Aargau Council of States primarily calls on the Federal Council to show what needs to be done so that Swiss nuclear power plants can go into long-term operation.

In the report requested by Burkart, the national government should also show how the electricity mix in Switzerland will develop and how many power generation plants will need to be built by 2030. This is so that the existing nuclear power plants can be decommissioned without any risk to the security of supply.

"The construction of new nuclear power plants should also be a possible scenario if the expansion of other low-emission capacities progresses too slowly," writes Burkart. In the Council, he said with regard to the "possible scenario" of building new nuclear power plants that it was merely a matter of drawing up an overview.

The four points of the postulate met with approval - with deviations - from representatives of the center, the FDP and the SVP, while the Greens and the Left said no.

Burkart: "false assumptions"

The federal government's Energy Strategy 2050 was drawn up under false assumptions, said Burkart in the Council. It was therefore not suitable for securing the future electricity supply.

The President of the FDP Switzerland is calling on the Federal Council to show, among other things, how the cost structure of nuclear power plant operators can be relieved or how additional financial incentives can be created for low-price phases. The national government should also outline how the replacement of nuclear components of a nuclear power plant, such as the reactor pressure vessel, could be made possible.

Nuclear energy contributed 36% of Switzerland's available electricity in 2022, making it a key source and an essential contribution to security of supply, particularly in the critical winter months.

Other supporters of the postulate, such as Pirmin Bischof (center/SO), also pointed out the importance of nuclear power plants for security of supply. Since the adoption of the federal government's Energy Strategy 2050, the facts have changed. Although the construction of new nuclear power plants is "completely unrealistic", existing nuclear power production must be secured.

The Green member of the Council of States from Glarus, Mathias Zopfi, on the other hand, said that the website of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) states that a reactor pressure vessel cannot be replaced. The postulate was unnecessary. For ideological reasons, a postulate with this content could also be submitted and approved.

Zopfi received support from Céline Vara (Greens/NE) and Mathilde Crevoisier Crelier (SP/JU). The latter said that the postulate was not in line with the nuclear phase-out approved by the people.

Sensible proposal for Rösti

The Federal Council requested that the postulate be accepted and wrote that a yes vote would not set a precedent for lifting the ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants. Consideration of the "possible scenario" meant that "decisions can be made in full knowledge of the facts."

Environment and Energy Minister Albert Rösti told the Council that it was a question of security of supply. At present, both the development of new renewable energies and nuclear power are needed. The clarifications requested by Burkart were not available. The postulate therefore makes sense.

A decision will be made from 2029 as to whether the two Beznau I and II nuclear power plants will be taken off the grid from 2032. According to Rösti, he does not know today where the approximately six terawatt hours of electricity would come from if the two nuclear power plants were decommissioned.

©Keystone/SDA

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