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May 31, 2011

Switzerland and Germany plan to phase out their use of nuclear power

Switzerland generates roughly 40% of its energy from the country's five nuclear reactors. The rest comes mostly from the more than 1,000 hydropower plants located in the Alps and along Switzerland's rivers. Ms. Leuthard said the government hasn't yet fixed a date for when the last nuclear-power station will go offline, but experts believe such a step could happen around 2040.

Switzerland's decision to discontinue the country's nuclear-power plants comes as a shock to Swiss utilities. Leading power companies Axpo Holding AG and BKW FMB AG had planned to build two new plants, and pledged to invest some $10 billion. The companies had said new plants are needed if Switzerland wants to avoid being dependent on expensive energy imports. The companies also warned that Swiss industry would suffer from high energy costs.

Germany plans to avoid restarting the seven reactors shut during the moratorium and close the rest by 2022.

Germany plans to double the output of renewables by 2020 to reach 35% of generation, Germany also wants to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 compared to 1990 levels. However, fossil fuels remain untouched by the new policy, the purpose of it being purely to replace nuclear with renewables. Some 19 fossil (coal mainly) power plants are under construction in Germany to come online within a few years.


To maintain growth in wind and solar power, the 3.5 euro cent tax on each kilowatt-hour comsumed will remain as a source of subsidy funds. However, the "extreme support" so far given to energy-intensive industry will be downscaled. In the past users of up to 10 gigawatt-hours each year paid nothing to this subsidy fund, with contributions reaching 0.05 euro cents per kilowatt-hour only for the most intensive users. Now a sliding scale is being brought in, starting at usage rates of 1 gigawatt-hour each year.

Another energy tax to support renewables is the levy on nuclear fuel, set at €145 per gram of uranium. This is enough to take about half the profit from those nuclear power plants that remain.


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