While Germany is breaking up, Sweden is heralding a radical turnaround in nuclear power

There are currently three nuclear power plants in operation in Sweden, including the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant.

Actually, Sweden, like Germany, wanted to phase out nuclear energy. But the new conservative government has changed its mind. She wants to expand nuclear power and sees it as a crucial building block on the way to a more climate-friendly future.

The climate turnaround with the electrification of industry and transport requires a doubling of electricity production, and nuclear power must play a large part in this, said Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari in Stockholm this week.

The government of Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is convinced that the climate-neutral conversion of the economy can only succeed if there is enough base load electricity available – be it for car batteries, heat pumps or for the production of hydrogen, although hydrogen from nuclear power is used differently in Sweden than in Germany is considered green.

The country therefore intends to build up nuclear power capacities by 2045 that will at least correspond to the output of ten new conventional reactors. According to the government, it is currently working on removing the obstacles that have so far stood in the way of the expansion of nuclear energy in the country.

Nuclear power currently accounts for 30 percent of Sweden’s electricity production

For example, Swedish environmental legislation stipulates that a maximum of ten nuclear reactors may be operated simultaneously in the country and that no new reactors are permitted outside of Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals. Environment Minister Pourmokhtari said this stands in the way of a modern approach to nuclear energy.

Three nuclear power plants with a total of six reactors are currently in operation in Sweden, three at the Forsmark site, two at Oskarshamn and one at the Ringhals power plant. Together they account for around 30 percent of Sweden’s electricity production. The rest comes mainly from wind and hydropower.

The conservative government and its right-wing populist support party, the Sweden Democrats, had already agreed before taking office in autumn 2022 to expand nuclear power. In doing so, they heralded a radical turnaround in the energy policy of the country, which presented itself as a green pioneer for a long time:

Sweden actually decided to phase out nuclear energy after a referendum in 1980. The originally planned exit date of 2010 was abandoned in 1996. But like most other countries in the world, Sweden has recently expanded its renewable energies, especially wind power.

News made German politicians sit up and take notice

The news from Stockholm also made German politicians sit up and take notice. “Despite comparatively excellent conditions for renewable energies, Sweden is consciously opting for an electricity mix with nuclear power. In this way, Sweden achieves more climate protection, more security of supply and cheaper electricity prices than Germany,” tweeted the parliamentary manager of the FDP parliamentary group, Torsten Herbst.

“When will the traffic light coalition end the energy-political ghost ride and rely on climate-friendly nuclear energy in addition to renewables?” also asked the hamburger CDU member of the Bundestag Christoph Ploß, who was criticized in 2022 for accepting ex-AfD boss Jörn Kruse, on the platform.

“It takes many years for new reactors to go online”

But critics object: nuclear power is expensive, takes too long and is unsafe. And so, for example, Swedish nuclear experts classify their government’s plans somewhat more soberly than some German politicians.

“It takes many years, if not decades, for new reactors to come online; definitely several legislative periods,” said the supervisory board of a Swedish nuclear power plant operator to the “WirtschaftsWoche”. The operators have “primarily an economic interest in extending the life of existing nuclear power plants”, less in new construction.

“Construction times and costs are exploding all over the Western world, and you can’t get reliable and predictable figures from China and Russia,” Mycle Schneider, a nuclear power analyst, told the magazine in January. In addition, according to Schneider, there is hardly any industrial capacity for a significant increase in nuclear power plant construction.

It is therefore an open question whether the construction of new nuclear power plants at more locations announced by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the beginning of the year will actually take place. In the fall, the government intends to present at least a roadmap for a major expansion of nuclear energy, as Swedish environment minister Pourmokhtari announced this week.

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checked, with information from dpa


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