Swedish energy agreement paves the way for nuclear new build
The Swedish government decided on 10 June to lift its moratorium on nuclear new build. The replacement of nuclear reactors will be allowed at existing nuclear sites as they reach the end of their operational duration with a maximum of ten reactors. This will help secure electricity supply until the country switches to 100% renewables in 2040. Moreover the government decided to abolish the nuclear tax by 2019, which will give breathing pace for nuclear companies to invest in nuclear new build and long-term operation.
In February 2010, the Swedish government put forward a draft law that would allow the construction of a maximum of 10 new nuclear reactors in the country to replace existing units as they are shut down. This law was ratified by the Parliament in June 2010. It brought to an end the nuclear phase-out policy that was first introduced in 1980. Following elections, a new government made up of the Social Democrats and the Greens took office in September 2014. The government announced that it would form an energy commission with representatives from all the political parties and the stakeholders in the energy field. The purpose of the energy commission was to reach a long-term energy agreement. During this period, Vattenfall, Sweden’s largest utility, had been requested to suspend its nuclear new build plan.
The new agreement says that: “Permission may be given to gradually replace the current reactors as they reach the end of their economic life.” The deal fixes a limit of ten new reactors to be built in total. The agreement includes also the phasing-out of a tax on nuclear energy by 2019. The tax accounts for about 30% of the reactors’ operating cost and had led utilities to threaten to shut down reactors if it was maintained.
Thanks to nuclear and hydro, Sweden is currently one of the few countries in Europe (including France, Switzerland and Norway) and in the world to produce over 80% of its electricity with low-carbon energy sources. Sweden currently has ten nuclear reactors in operation at three NPPs, Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals, providing 34% of its electricity. However four of these reactors are expected to be closed by 2020.
There are currently four nuclear reactors under construction in Europe, one in France, one in Finland and two in Slovakia and 23 other new build projects are in the pipeline in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Hungary, the UK, Slovenia and Romania. Nuclear power is a competitive, reliable and base-load source of energy, which makes a significant contribution to the EU’s energy policy goals. It currently provides 27% of Europe’s electricity and 50% of its low-carbon electricity.