Austrian province wants Swiss nuclear power halt

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Austrian province wants Swiss nuclear power halt
Mühleberg nuclear plant. Photo: BKW FMB Energie AG

The head of the regional Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) in Voralberg, Roland Frühstück, wants to exert pressure on the Swiss government to speed up decommissioning of its aging nuclear power reactors due to concerns over safety.


Switzerland has four remaining active nuclear power plants, one of which is the oldest non-military reactor operating in the world.

The Swiss government decided in 2011 to shut down one of the plants, which was commissioned in 1972.  The plant, in Mühleberg, is now more than 42 years old, and has a similar design to the ill-fated Fukushima plant - although it isn't on the coast in a tectonically active region. 

A similar decision has yet to be taken by Switzerland in connection with its Beznau Nuclear Power Plant, which was commissioned in 1969, making it 45 years old.

Emergency shutdown switch for Beznau nuclear power plant.  Photo: Thomas Kern

In March 2014, several Greenpeace protestors were arrested at Beznau, for protesting against its continued use.  "The majority (of the nuclear power plants in Europe) are threatening to overshoot their technical design life-time," said Greenpeace nuclear energy spokesman Jan Haverkamp according to AFP, pointing to the March 2011 disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant, which started operating in 1971.

"The increasing age of the reactors also increases the risks for a nuclear incident and significant economic and environmental damage," Haverkamp said.

Frühstück wants to increase the pressure on the Swiss government to remove Mühleberg from the grid, a move which is currently slated for 2019.

To this end, he is pressuring Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) to call for an energy summit between Austria, Germany and Switzerland, to discuss the concerns around the aging reactors.

The goal is to make it unmistakably clear that the energy policy of the Swiss Confederation is, from the perspective of its neighbors, one of negligence: "In the 21st century, it is unacceptable that a country risks endangering the population of an entire region due to its energy policy," said the ÖVP chairman. 
From such an energy summit he expects an accelerated exit strategy, at least for the nuclear power plant at Mühleberg.  Switzerland operates two of the world's oldest nuclear power plants. 
In mid-May the citizens of the Swiss canton of Bern rejected an immediate shutdown of the nuclear plant at Mühleberg. The plant will now produce electricity until 2019.
It is currently undergoing maintenance work. For Frühstück this is the appropriate time to do something. It is not only a question of safety, but also economically "completely absurd, once again to invest in a technology that is completely out of date and therefore poses a risk to the people."



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