Swiss vote no over quick end to nuke power

ZURICH • Swiss voters have likely rejected a proposal to speed up the process of phasing out the country's nuclear power plants that would see three of its five reactors closed down next year.

In preliminary results of a referendum yesterday, 55 per cent of voters rejected the initiative, with 45 per cent favouring it.

The Green Party about four years ago gathered more than the 100,000 signatures needed to put the issue to a popular vote - a regular feature of Switzerland's direct democracy.

The government decided to gradually close Switzerland's nuclear plants just a few months after Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant was destroyed in the March 2011 tsunami, but it did not set a clear timeline.

The government's plan was to decommission five ageing reactors, which today produce about a third of the country's electricity, as they reached the end of their safe operational lifespan.

But all of Switzerland's nuclear plants have open-ended operating licences, meaning they can continue operating as long as they are deemed safe.

The vote yesterday on the "Nuclear Withdrawal Initiative" calls for reactors to operate for no longer than 45 years. This would entail the final closure next year of Beznau, which has been operating in the northern Swiss canton of Aargau, near the German border, for 47 years.

The Swiss government and industry have fought the initiative, saying it could lead to blackouts, higher costs and the loss of energy independence because the country would become more dependent on coal-fired power from neighbouring Germany.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Swiss vote no over quick end to nuke power'. Print Edition | Subscribe