Atomic Policy in Sweden

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Nuclear Phase-out and Revival of Atomic Power in Sweden

In 1980 in reaction on the 1979 meltdown in the USA Three Mile Island NPP (Harrisburg) a referendum lead to a decision for a long-term nuclear phase-out and a stop of constructing new atomic power stations in Sweden. However, the atomic industry received millions of EUR compensation in cash and in kWh provided by state operated energy companies for closing a first reactor in Barsebäck. Instead of using the money for investments in renewable energy sources, the Swedish nuclear industry took over significant shares of other European companies, partly also from German nuclear energy companies. Thus, the goal of a nuclear phase-out by the beginning of the 21st century was not met.

In Germany for instance the Swedish participation in nuclear companies lead to stronger stances and campaigns against the German nuclear phase-out. Also the new formed Swedish-German energy companies exercised a "greenwashing" of electricity by selling atomic power to Sweden and buying for instance water generated power from Sweden at the same time. Of course this deal only happened on paper – in reality the electricity is used in the place produced next to the consumption. But in Germany the atomic power companies were able to sell their electricity now as "green energy".

In 2006 a serious accident took place at the Forsmark NPP operated by Vattenfall experiencing serious incidents in their German reactors Brunsbüttel and Krümmel, too.

As a result of the formal decision to phase out nuclear power, the strong anti-nuclear movement disappeared or transformed into NGOs focusing on lobbying and educating. Street actions became rare. In 2009 the Swedish phase-out was eventually annulled by the government setting up a new energy programme allowing building new (but bigger) NPPs to replace the old ones. One year later the Swedish parliament confirmed the government's decision. Since that time the public awareness and objection to atomic power slightly grew again. It seems to be contradictory that several strong anti-nuclear NGOs are established and working on lobbying, research or educational level in Sweden while protests in public are rare and were particularly done by Climate action groups of young people not involved to the established anti-nuclear movement.

These days ten nuclear reactors are in operation in Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals. Nuclear energy makes between 35 and 40 % of the Swedish electricity generation. At Oskarshamn also the temporary repository for high level nuclear waste is situated while Forsmark is supposed to become the site for a final repository for this waste.