Stockholm (AFP) June 17, 2010
Sweden's parliament on Thursday narrowly passed a landmark government proposal allowing the replacement of nuclear reactors at the end of their life span.
The centre-right coalition government's proposal in February last year to reverse an earlier decision to phase out nuclear power was approved by parliament after an all-day debate, with 174 votes in favour and 172 against.
Three members of Sweden's 349-strong parliament were absent.
The country had voted in a 1980 non-binding referendum to phase out its 12 reactors by 2010, a target which was later abandoned by officials.
Since 1999, two of the reactors have been closed. The 10 remaining reactors, at three power stations, account for about half of Sweden's electricity production.
The plan voted on Thursday entails that new reactors can be built at the same site as today's three existing plants when they wind down, but no new sites will be approved and the number of reactors in the Scandinavian country will not be permitted to exceed 10.
Parliament ruled that the Swedish state would not be allowed to subsidise the construction of nuclear power initiatives, and also voted to hand reactor owners unlimited damage liability in the case of an accident.
The nuclear reactor replacement plan, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2011, was backed by the four coalition government parties, including the Centre Party which traditionally has been opposed to nuclear power.
However, there was heated debate in the house ahead of the vote and two Centre Party members of parliament said they would "follow the voice of conscience" and vote against the measure.
The three main left-leaning opposition parties were staunchly set against plan, with Green Party spokeswoman Maria Wetterstrand scolding the Centre Party for siding with its coalition partners.
Voting in favour of the proposal, she said, "could mean Sweden will be making itself dependent on nuclear power for 100 more years and there will be 100,000 years of consequences for future generations who will have to take care of the waste", she said during the parliamentary debate.
Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, of the Centre Party, meanwhile defended the government's energy proposal.
"It is a myth that nuclear power is forcing out renewable energies. (Renewables) have won the game. Why then exclude nuclear from the plan?" he asked.
Carlgren also stressed voters would be able to express themselves on the new energy plan, which is set to take effect at the beginning of next year, in the upcoming September 19 elections.
If the three-party opposition manages to climb to power, it is expected to try to reverse Thursday's ruling.
The nuclear plan is part of the government's climate programme, which stipulates that by 2020 renewable energy should comprise 50 percent of all energy produced, for the Swedish car fleet to be independent of fossil fuels 10 years later and for the country to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Environmental group Greenpeace described the nuclear decision as "irresponsible".
"With a narrow majority, the members of parliament show they do not take the environmental risks posed by nuclear power seriously, and that they do not trust in the enormous potential there is for Swedish renewable energy," Greenpeace spokesman Ludvig Tillman said in a statement.
The parliamentary vote came on the same day as 29 activists arrested Monday for breaking into the Forsmark nuclear power plant met in an Uppsala court, north of Stockholm.
The activists, all but one foreigners from countries including Britain, Germany and Poland, had dressed up as brightly coloured renewable energy sources wind, water and sun, as part of a Greenpeace demonstration to pressure parliamentarians to vote against the nuclear proposal.
They had been charged with illegal trespassing, but were all released from custody after Thursday's court hearing, Greenpeace said, adding the court would rule on the case on July 1.
Other Greenpeace activists meanwhile stood outside the Swedish parliament during the drawn-out debate, holding up a banner imploring parliamentarians to "vote no".
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Nuclear power vital to cutting CO2 emissions: report
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Roughly a quarter of global electricity could be generated by nuclear power by 2050, requiring a tripling in nuclear generating capacity but making a major contribution to reduced CO2 emissions, a report said Wednesday. A study by the International Energy Agency, which seeks to coordinate energy policies in industrialised nations, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ... read more
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