Swiss Consortium Planning New Nuclear Power Plants

Friday, December 14, 2007

Global Insight, December 14, 2007, Matthew Hall

Swiss energy groups Axpo and BKW have established a joint company to carry forward plans to build two new 1,600MW nuclear power plants in the country. The new plants are to be located at Beznau and Meuhleberg, where existing nuclear plants are due for decommissioning. The joint company, Resun, has indicated it will lodge planning applications by the end of 2008. The permitting process is expected to take four or five years, followed by several years of construction work, meaning the plants are not scheduled to be commissioned until after 2020. Axpo has estimated the plants will cost between 5 billion and 6 billion Swiss francs ($4US.4 billion-$5US.3 billion) to build.

Significance: Switzerland currently receives 60% of its power from hydroelectricity, but generation from these plants can fluctuate significantly depending on high or low annual rainfall, switching the country between a net power exporter and a net power importer. The country's five nuclear reactors therefore provide an important source of stability to the system. The proposed 1,600MW reactors are notably larger than the existing 355MW and 730MW plants at Beznau and Mühleberg, indicating that, in replacing the older plants, the country will also take the opportunity to boost its nuclear capacity, potentially further reducing its vulnerability to weather fluctuations.

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