Switzerland suspends new build nuclear plans

Switzerland has suspended the approvals process for three new nuclear power stations so safety standards can be revisited after the explosions at a Japanese plant.
 
Switzerland's five existing nuclear reactors generate about 40 per cent of the country's electricity but some will have to be retired in coming years. Decisions on sites for new plants were due to be made in mid-2012, according to Reuters.
 
Sites at Niederamt, Beznau and Muehleberg have been declared suitable and further feasibility studies are under way. Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said: "Safety is our first priority."
 
In a statement, the Swiss ministry of the environment, transport, energy and communications (UVEK) said it was monitoring the situation in Japan and safety checks were being made at an existing plant at Muehleberg.
 
The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) has been requested to do safety checks at the existing plants, the ministry said. ENSI has also been asked to analyse the causes of the accident at the Fukushima plant in Japan and draw possible new and tighter safety standards, especially as far as safety is concerned in the case of an earthquake and in terms of cooling.
 
Swiss utility companies Axpo, Alpiq and BKW are among the companies interested in building new nuclear power plants in Switzerland.
 
In 1990, Swiss voters backed a 10-year moratorium on the building of nuclear power plants but they rejected extending the freeze in 2003, opening the way for the government to consider new plants to replace those that need retiring.
 
Last month, Swiss voters narrowly approved the building of a new plant in Muehleberg to replace the old one there, 20 per cent owned by Germany's E.ON.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said a government decision to extend the life of Germany's nuclear power stations could be suspended.

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