Blow for Leuthard as nuclear vote looms

Less than two weeks before Switzerland votes on a speedy withdrawal from nuclear power, a key argument by Energy Minister Doris Leuthard has been called into question.

Blow for Leuthard as nuclear vote looms
Doris Leuthard is campaigning for more renewable energy. Photo: AFP/Jacques Demarthon

The cabinet minister opposes the popular initiative‘For an orderly withdrawal from the nuclear energy programme', backed by the Green Party, that goes to the vote in a referendum on November 27th.

The minister maintains that if the initiative is approved, Switzerland would have to rely on imports of fossil fuels from abroad.

This would include fuel from coal-powered plants in Germany.

The clean energy Switzerland produces from renewable sources would not be sufficient to make up for the shortfall caused by withdrawing from nuclear energy.

But research has shown that in her home commune of Merenschwand in the canton of Aargau 96 percent of electricity consumed already comes from abroad, Blick reported.

Statistics on energy sources quoted by the paper show that in 2014 virtually all the electricity used in the commune came from abroad and the source had not been verified.

The energy used to power her oven could come from coal-fired power stations, it said.

The Merenschwand electricity cooperative admitted that almost 96 percent of the power it supplied came from “unverifiable sources”.

Since the Fukushima nuclear power disaster in Japan in 2011, the Swiss government has been working on plans to withdraw Switzerland from nuclear power.

Its 'energy strategy 2050' aims to work towards that by developing renewable energy sources, but it doesn't set a timetable for decommissioning nuclear plants.

If the initiative is passed, three of Switzerland's nuclear power reactors – Mühleberg and Beznau I and II – will be closed as soon as 2017, with the remaining two being decommissioned in 2024 and 2029.

From then on, other sources will have to be found for the 40-50 percent of Swiss electricity that currently comes from nuclear power.



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