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Nuclear energy: who's advancing and who's retreating
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Nov 27, 2016

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a bid to speed up the phaseout of its ageing nuclear power plants, but is still sticking to its plan to gradually close its reactors.

Like Germany and Japan, Switzerland reached its decision to slowly end its production of nuclear power following the March 2011 earthquake-induced Fukushima disaster.

In a popular vote on Sunday, 54.2 percent rejected the call to accelerate the phaseout, in a move that would have forced three of Switzerland's five reactors to close next year.

The Swiss nuclear plants, which supply around one third of the country's electricity, will thereby continue to run indefinitely, until they are no longer considered safe.

The government's overall energy strategy calls for an increasing reliance on hydraulic power and renewables like solar and wind to fill the void when the nuclear reactors finally are shut down.

Other countries meanwhile still put their faith in nuclear power and some want to convert to it.

Following is a checklist of the main countries retreating on nuclear power, and those who intend to push ahead with it.

- Phasing out atomic energy -

Germany, Europe's top economy, which has eight reactors still in operation, decided after the Fukushima disaster to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

Under its energy transition plan, Germany is boosting clean energy sources to meet 80 percent of power needs by 2050, against around a third currently.

Italy, which had plans to relaunch a nuclear power programme, abandoned them after the Japanese disaster and an ensuing referendum in which its voters came out strongly against.

Belgium also plans to phase out nuclear power between 2016 and 2025.

- Those who want to continue -

Japan, which took its nuclear plants offline after the Fukushima disaster, intends to provide 20-22 percent of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030.

However, with tighter safety rules since Fukushima, Tokyo is struggling to restart shuttered reactors and there are just two currently operating.

Several countries have confirmed their wish to continue with nuclear energy for various reasons, pointing in particular to the necessity to guarantee energy supplies without depending on imported fossil fuels or because they see in nuclear power an indispensable way of reducing CO2 emissions.

Those countries include Britain, China, France, India, Russia and the United States.

Some of the countries in question intend to build new nuclear plants. They include China and Britain, which wants to renew its whole nuclear park. South Africa, which has Africa's only nuclear plant, wants to add six to eight new reactors in addition to the two it already has at Koeberg. However, its nuclear programme has been hit by delays.

As regards Iran, Russia built its existing 1,000-megawatt reactor at Bushehr that came online in September 2011 and reached full capacity the following year.

In September Russian and Iranian firms began work on two additional reactors at Bushehr. The Islamic republic is seeking to reduce its reliance on oil and gas with 20 nuclear facilities planned over the coming years.

Iran's nuclear programme has long worried the international community, which fears it is trying to obtain an atomic bomb, and its nuclear activities are strictly governed by a historic accord struck between Iran and global powers in 2015.

In Sweden, in June, the left-wing government backtracked on its pledge to phase out atomic energy, striking a deal with the opposition to continue nuclear power for the foreseeable future.

- Those who want to adopt nuclear energy -

A whole list of countries wants to adopt nuclear energy, notably the Gulf states which currently produce their electricity from oil and gas and want to save their hydrocarbon resources.

The list includes, at different stages of development, countries like Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

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