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Switzerland Abandons Nuclear Power

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The Swiss government just voted on Wednesday to abandon nuclear power in their country; their last reactor will finally go offline in 2034. The nation’s five remaining nuclear power plants will slowly be phased out, and no new reactors will be built. The government had already suspended approval for three new nuclear power stations in March, due to safety concerns.

Public confidence in the feasibility of nuclear energy has utterly collapsed since the nuclear meltdown disaster in Japan. Support for nuclear power is plummeting across Europe; earlier this year already Germany also decided to reject nuclear, and has accelerated the shuttering of a number of its aged reactors.

The Swiss government’s decision may also have been impacted by the huge anti-nuclear protests that happened in the country earlier in the week. Over 20,000 people protested against nuclear power in Switzerland on Sunday; the demonstration was the largest anti-nuclear power march since the eighties.

The massive crowds peacefully demonstrated near the Beznau nuclear power plant in the northern canton state of Aargau. The Beznau plant is one of the country’s oldest nuclear plants, and will be one of the first to be dismantled.

Nuclear is No Longer Economically Viable

The government has structured a lengthy transition time to phase out nuclear in order to give Switzerland time to develop sustainable energy sources and invest in more clean energy research. In a public statement, the Swiss Cabinet explained that it was responding to the desires of the Swiss people to reduce risks:

“…in the face of the severe damage that the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima caused.”

The statement went on to say that the reality was that the hidden costs of nuclear power, the many devastating dangers associated with it, as well as new stricter regulations, means that soon nuclear simply will no longer be economically viable:

“…long-term, nuclear energy was expected to lose its competitive advantage over renewable sources of energy because the costs associated with nuclear power, such as for new safety standards and equipment, are expected to climb.”

The European Union is now planning new safety tests and stricter regulations for the remaining 143 operating nuclear reactors that still continue to operate in the region.

image is by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Getty Images via NPR
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