SWEDEN has sent a clear positive message to the nuclear industry, announcing it could build as many as ten new reactors, and will eliminate a tax that industry has railed against.
Sweden plans to generate all of its power from renewable sources by 2040 and is using new nuclear capacity to ease the transition as older nuclear plants shutdown. This does not mean that nuclear plants will be forced to shut down from 2040 though, according to the agreement.
Commenting on the deal struck between Sweden’s main political partners, energy minister Ibrahim Baylan said: 'The aim is ... to make sure we can always guarantee electricity at competitive prices, in a stable and sustainable way, both in the short and long term,' Reuters reports.
Sweden currently generates around 40% of its electricity from nine nuclear reactors, of which four are set to reach the end of their operational lives by the end of the decade. State-utility Vattenfall warned it would have to shut the remaining reactors early unless the nuclear capacity tax was abolished. Utilities challenged the tax at the European Court of Justice last year but lost the case.
Amid the tax and the need for costly safety upgrades required in the wake of the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, Vattenfall has warned that its costs have risen above revenue. Fortunately, its call to government has been strengthened by heavy industry players concerned that a quick shift from nuclear would increase energy prices and lead to shortages.
”We welcome that a broad parliamentary agreement on the future direction of Swedish energy policy has been reached, giving us the predictability we need,” said Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall. “The abolishment of the nuclear capacity tax is an important precondition for us to be able to consider the investments needed to secure the long-term operation of our nuclear reactors from the 1980s.”
Sweden has agreed to phase out its nuclear tax over two years beginning in 2017. To offset the loss of the tax revenue – the government collected SK4bn (US$488m) from the nuclear industry last year – the government has said energy bills will have to rise, though heavy industry would be protected from the new penalty on consumers.
Reacting to the news, World Nuclear Association director general Agneta Rising said: 'Today's announcement is a positive development. It is vital that there is now consistent policy to give operators the confidence to make the investments needed in their plant to allow for their long term continued operation. Other countries should follow Sweden's example and ensure that their energy policies provide a level playing field that treats all forms of generation equally on their merits.'
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