Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Swedish alliance party calls for nuclear rethink

January 11, 2008


STOCKHOLM, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Sweden should rethink its commitment to phase out nuclear power and build four new atomic plants in the next few years, the leader of one of its ruling, centre-right alliance parties said on Friday.

The call for a rethink follows hot on the heels of Britain's decision to invest in new nuclear power stations and echoes a growing movement which sees atomic energy as a means to tackle global warming and meet climate change emission targets.

Liberal Party leader Jan Bjorklund said Sweden's parliament should scrap its ban on building new nuclear power stations soon after the next election, due in 2010.

The Liberal Party is one fo three junior members of the centre-right coalition government dominated by the bigger Moderate Party.

"As a first step, we need to invest in four new nuclear reactors," Bjorklund said in an article in daily Dagens Nyheter.

"In addition, the 10 existing reactors should be replaced in due course with new reactors."

Swedes voted in a 1980 referendum to phase out nuclear power, but recent opinion polls have shown them warming to the technology. Two of 12 original reactors have already been shut.

Sweden's nuclear industry has been sharply criticised over the past couple of years after a number of safety flaws and technical problems were revealed in the wake of an emergency shutdown of the Forsmark plant in July 2006.

At one point half of the country's reactors were off-line for safety inspections and Sweden now faces an international inspection of its nuclear plants in next month.


Still, opinion polls carried out following the incidents showed most Swedes wanted to keep or expand nuclear power generation in the Nordic country.

Around 45 percent of Sweden's electricity is from nuclear reactors. Much the rest comes from hydroelectric plants.

Bjorklund's party has been the most outspoken proponent of nuclear power while its partners in government, the Moderates and the Christian Democrats have also been largely favourable.

But the fourth governing party, the Centre Party, has traditionally opposed nuclear energy, though in recent years it has moved somewhat closer to the position of its allies.

Enterprise and Energy Minister Maud Olofsson, leader of the Centre Party, could not be reached for comment. However, Anders Flanking, Party Secretary for the Centre Party, said that the Liberal Party's position was well-known.

"The Liberal Party and the Moderates have promised not to push for the development (of nuclear power during the current mandate period), and we have promised not to push for a phase-out," he said.

The Social Democrats, who have ruled Sweden for much of the last 100 years, are against nuclear power, as are their traditional allies in the Green and Left parties. The Social Democrats carried out the closure of the Barseback plant's two reactors before losing power to the centre-right.

The opposition currently leads the government in opinion polls.

Sweden's neighbour, Finland, is much more positive about nuclear power.

It will see its fifth reactor come into service in 2011, the first new reactor to be built in Europe in more than a decade. France is just behind Finland in its nuclear plans with a new reactor coming on stream in 2012.

Lithuania is also planning a new nuclear plant whose output would be shared by Latvia, Estonia and Poland.

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