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Nuclear power in the Nordic countries
Recalled to half-life

Feb 12th 2009 | HELSINKI
From The Economist print edition
A surprising revival in previously reviled nuclear power

IN WHAT may be his boldest move so far, Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt has shredded a central part of the election manifesto on which his centre-right government fought the election in 2006. The four parties in his coalition have long been split over nuclear power. So they agreed in the manifesto to keep all matters atomic off the agenda until their term expired in 2010. But a combination of tight climate-change targets, energy-security worries and a wobbly economy has now caused a rethink. On February 5th Mr Reinfeldt unveiled a plan to reverse Sweden’s 30-year ban on building new nuclear capacity.

The new pro-nuclear policy is echoed in some of Sweden’s neighbours. On the very day that Mr Reinfeldt announced his proposals Fortum, a Finnish energy group, lodged an application to build a new nuclear plant. This would be the country’s sixth. Four are in operation and a fifth (the world’s largest) is under construction at Olkiluoto. On the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, Poland plans two nuclear-power stations to reduce its dependence on coal. The Poles are also talking to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia about a joint consortium to build a replacement for Lithuania’s outdated Ignalina nuclear-power complex. Only the Danes and, to a lesser extent, the Germans are still anti-nuclear.

Mr Reinfeldt and his coalition partners should have little difficulty getting the necessary legislation through the Swedish parliament next month. But broad cross-party support would still be desirable to provide stability and ward off any risk of a policy reversal by a future government. So the leftist opposition has been invited to talks to mull over an energy package that also includes measures to cut carbon emissions and boost renewable energy. But like the centre-right, the left is divided over nuclear power: the Social Democrats are split, while the Greens and the Left Party are firmly against.

Jan Björklund, the pro-nuclear education minister, has appealed to the opposition to “throw the battle-axe in the lake” and get on board for the sake of Swedish industry and the climate. But the opposition doubts the sincerity of such appeals. It claims to have been asking the government to discuss energy for almost three years but to have been ignored. “Now they just want us to rubber-stamp a done deal,” comments one opposition figure. There are suspicions that the government may be using its nuclear plan as a way of sowing discord within the opposition just as it is trying to formulate a joint platform for the 2010 election.

Whatever the truth, the Social Democrats are unlikely to sign up to a deal involving the construction of as many as ten new nuclear plants. So some shrinking of the government’s ambitions may be necessary. But Mr Reinfeldt will not give up without a fight. He has already scored a strategic victory by persuading the Centre Party (a junior coalition member) to revoke its 1980 decision to phase out nuclear power. Maud Olofsson, the Centre Party leader, admits she may not like it, “but we can live with the fact that nuclear power will be part of Swedish electricity production for the foreseeable future.”

To Mr Reinfeldt’s advantage, many Swedes seem to reason similarly. A Novus Group opinion poll taken after the energy plan was announced found 57% of respondents agreeing that it should be possible to replace old nuclear plants with new. Fully 70% said they thought the government’s energy package as a whole was good. But opposition leaders are sceptical. “That poll was commissioned by the pro-nuclear lobby. We have polls of our own and they say something else,” says one.


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Antiguo 16-feb-2009, 01:13
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Por lo menos cúrrate unas lineas en español, a modo de comentario o resumen, que esto no es un foro inglés.


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Antiguo 16-feb-2009, 07:32
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Nuclear power in the Nordic countries
Recalled to half-life

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