Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power plants

Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power plants

On the ballot yesterday (May 21) was the Swiss government's Energy Strategy 2050, a referendum that called for the ban of new nuclear power plants and investment in renewable energy.

No date had been finalised for decommissioning the facilities, but the country will now aim to increase reliance on sources like solar, wind and hydro power.

In a referendum held on 21 May, 58pc of voters gave the go ahead for the government to phase out its five nuclear power plants that now provide one third of its total power supply.

The European nation has five aging nuclear power plants, providing one-third of its energy needs at present. The country's five nuclear plants can continue to operate as long as they are safe.

Under Switzerland's constitution, referendums need support from both a majority of the country's equivalent of states and a majority of the national vote to pass.

The move has been in the making since shortly after Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant was destroyed in the March 2011 tsunami disaster, when the Swiss government made a decision to gradually close its nuclear plants.

Regula Rytz, president of Switzerland's Green Party, was quoted by the BBC as calling the vote a "moment of historic change".

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Meanwhile, an additional 450 million Swiss Francs will be gathered from an existing fossil fuel tax as part of a drive to cut energy use from buildings by 43 per cent by 2035, against 2000 levels.

In a referendum, Swiss voters approved a plan that will eventually phase out all nuclear power use. The Energy Strategy 2050 had already been approved by Parliament a year ago, but the country's rightwing Swiss People's Party challenged the reform to a referendum in an attempt to block the move.

Supporters of the law say that investing in renewables will make Switzerland less dependent on energy imports. "I am very anxious about the future", SVP MP Celine Amaudruz told RTS broadcaster, reacting to the preliminary referendum results.

The SVP claims the energy shift will be too expensive, would threaten Switzerland's energy supply and would "disfigure" the country's pristine natural landscape with more wind turbines and solar panels.

While the new mandate lets the government to implement the plan from January 2018, a previous referendum seeking the lifespan of the nuclear plants reduced from 60 years to 45 years was rejected by the voters in November last year.

"Who wants to pay 3,200 francs more. for a cold shower?" the posters ask.

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