Swiss vote to support government plan to scrap nuclear plants

22 May 2017


Swiss voters have given thumbs up to the government's plan to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy. Under the plans, new nuclear plants will be banned and the government will help bail out struggling utilities.

According to provisional final figures, of the binding referendum, the government enjoyed a 58.2 per cent support under the Swiss system of direct democracy, which gave voters final say on major policy issues.

According to commentators, the Swiss initiative reflected efforts in other parts of Europe to cut dependence on nuclear power, partly sparked by Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011. Germany aimed to phase out nuclear power by 2022, even as it had been banned in Austria decades ago.

"The results show the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants," energy minister Doris Leuthard said, adding the law would boost domestic renewable energy, cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies.

"The law leads our country into a modern energy future," she told a news conference, adding some parts of the law would take effect in early 2018.

Switzerland operates five nuclear power plants, which provide a third of the country's energy needs.

No date had been finalised for decommissioning the facilities, but the country will now aim to increase reliance on sources like solar, wind and hydro power.

According to opponents, the move away from nuclear energy would cost too much money and lead to the landscape being "disfigured".

But, according to the president of Switzerland's Green party, Regula Rytz, the vote was a "moment of historic change", BBC reported.

"The Swiss population has said 'no' to the construction of new nuclear power plants and yes to the development of renewable energy," she added. "The conditions have also been set whereby the economy and households will need to take responsibility for the future.

"It's absolutely magnificent."

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