Published: Sat, December 03, 2016
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Swiss cast ballots on referendum on nuclear energy

Swiss cast ballots on referendum on nuclear energy

Polls have suggested a close race.

Swiss voters rejected a plan to accelerate the country's exit from nuclear energy in a referendum Sunday, turning down an initiative that would have forced their government to shut the last plant in 2029.

In this March 5, 2014 file picture Greenpeace activists hang banners saying "The End", at a building of the Nuclear power plant Beznau near Doettingen, Switzerland.

It said nuclear plants should continue to operate as long as they are deemed safe, but didn't set a precise timetable. Under the initiative, backed by the Green Party and put up for referendum, the Swiss were asked to vote whether the country should close the Muehleberg and Beznau 1 and 2 nuclear power stations next year, the Goesgen facility in 2024, and the Leibstadt power plant - in 2029.

Because of public concern, no new nuclear power stations have been built in Switzerland since 1984.

At the time of writing 56% of people have voted "No" to the rapid phase out, recording a clear victory by winning both the popular vote and by taking majorities in the most cantons.

That plan is under threat, however, with the Swiss People's Party, the largest in parliament, aiming to challenge it with a separate referendum on the grounds it is too expensive.

"The problems haven't been resolved with this referendum Sunday", she said.

Supporters of the Green Party's case for earlier nuclear phase-out argue the advanced age of Switzerland's nuclear reactors - they are amongst the oldest in the world - makes them unsafe and raises the risk of a nuclear accident.

While voicing disappointment at Sunday's result, the left-leaning parties meanwhile insisted that with a full 45.77 percent of voters eager for a speedy exit from nuclear power, the government should have plenty of support for its overall strategy.

After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan in 2011, Switzerland made a decision to gradually close its nuclear plants but did not give a specific timeline.

SVP has launched an initiative to be voted on next year to overturn the government's 2050 energy strategy, which aims to increase the reliance on hydraulic power as well as renewables like solar and wind in order to help replace its nuclear plants. In its energy policy, the government recommended decommissioning all nuclear reactors and to promote hydroelectric power, renewable energy and combined gas plants.

Switzerland is heavily dependent on nuclear power.

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