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Switzerland Votes To Abandon Nuclear Power In Favor of Renewables (bbc.com) 383

Slashdot reader bsolar writes: Swiss voters approved a new energy strategy proposed by the government. Under this new policy no new nuclear power plant will be built and the five existing nuclear power plants will continue operating and will be shut down at the end of their operating life (expected to last about 20-30 years). The plan is to offset the missing nuclear energy production by renewables and lower energy consumption.
Though one-third of the country's power comes from nuclear energy, the BBC reports that more than 58% of the voters "backed the move towards greener power sources." One Swiss news site notes that "regions where the country's five nuclear reactors are situated rejected the reform with clear majorities."
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Switzerland Votes To Abandon Nuclear Power In Favor of Renewables

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  • That's the plain and simple truth. Nuclear Fission only looks like it works if it is cross-funded by obscene truckloads of taxpayers money and nobody looks too hard at centralized power cartels (funded by said taxpayers money), reactor runtimes and maintenance costs (also paid by taxpayers mones). Factor in waste handling, storage and the risks of nuclear disasters and the balance sheet goes really deep-red.

    The numbers don't add up and the whole concept simply doesn't work. Even the conservatives in Germany have noticed this. Replenishing Plant Wackersdorf - a multi-billion dollar project for the treatment and replenishing of nuclear waste - wasn't closed down by left-wing hippie protesters raising a stink of the better part of a decade, it was closed down by southern Germany state officials doing the math. Some backroom clerk adding up the numbers and seeing in awe and amazement that it wouldn't work, even with the best predictions. Same goes for the most advanced fast breeder at Kalkar - a building estimated more expensive than the Pyramids of Gizeh, inflation factored in.

    Now Germany is moving out of nuclear alltogether and for once we're actually ahead of schedule - even with all the fuss about the new powerlines crossing the republic. AFAI understand we've simply decided to front a few extra billion and move those underground, so nobody can complain of them blocking their view. We crossed the 80% renewables a few weeks ago. If Germany can do this - really not a country known for it's sunny days - the rest of the world can do it too.

    People have to see the light: Nuclear Fission as we know it is a 60ies techno-romatic pipe-dream. And a dangerous one at that, with a 200 000 year waste problem attached.

    IMHO the world should move to decommission classic nuclear fission ASAP. I'm glad the swiss voted in favor of this. I personally don't want to many chernobyls and fukushimas happening before the world finally catches on.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @03:28AM (#54461705)

      While I agree with a stop to build new ones, it's insane to turn off the ones that are still running reliably. Because whether you turn them off now or at their end of life, the building along with everything inside is radioactive waste you have to take care of. The damage is already done, the nuclear waste already created. You can as well reap the few benefits you gain out of it before throwing it away.

      Or rather, driving it around Europe hoping to find some place to stow it. Maybe Moldova will allow you to dump it there if you throw enough money at them, they sure need it.

      • I agree to an extent. Slowly phasing out existing plants where the financial investment was already made could be smarter than simply turning them off and building intermediary coal plants to buffer the transition.

        However, there is one thing to observe: Transition, where it is taken on, is happening at rate faster than anyone predicted, simply because setting up a windmill or a solar array is so much less hassle than building an nuclear fission cycle that follows all the required regulations. So we'd have to look very carefull if even existing nuclear cycles are cost effective vis-a-vis contemporary alternatives. Modern day stuff like Elon Musks solar roof and the powerwall basically pay for itself with current energy costs. No need to lug nuclear fuel and waste about anymore. The only infrastucture needed for larger off-shore windparks and desert-bound solar-arrays that isn't in existance are powerlines. And even those are cheaper and less fuss than NF, even if you put them into the ground.

        If we de-throne the power cartels and allow for decentralised power we'd see all nuclear plants put into hybernation-mode faster than expected, simply because it's too much hassle to maintain them for regular throughput. I'd expect nuclear plants to simply be repurposed as storage facilities for their own waste.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        While I agree with a stop to build new ones, it's insane to turn off the ones that are still running reliably

        Indeed, which is why it isn't happening anywhere. As reactors hit an age when they need seriously expensive work to continue operating they are being shut down. We haven't seen any relatively new reactors shut down since 1979 when TMI scared everyone enough to shut down the obvious 1960s deathtraps and upgrade everything else.

      • by bsolar ( 1176767 )
        That's in my opinion why the Swiss rejected a similar popular initative last November and accepted this legislation instead: the popular initiative included hard decommissioning deadlines which would have shut down some nuclear power plants much earlier than necessary. The approved legislation will phase out nuclear power plants when they'll reach end of life.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      Oh, stop that BS. Germany's power grid is going into a shithole and they're propping it with hastily expanding coal and natgas generation. That 2020 targets for CO2 emissions? Who cares about them!

      Greeny idiots keep parading the peak numbers for renewable generation (now 100500% of the consumption!) but they conveniently forget to mention troughs. For example, this January the renewable production was 10% of the normal due to unusually cold weather with little wind. For about 2 weeks. Had Germany relied o
      • BS. German built -4 new coal power stations. In other words, they built some new ones but closed more older ones.

        Anyway, you are pre-judging their effort. They are due to finish around 2024, when the last nuclear reactors are decommissioned. Until then it's still the transition phase and not indicative of the final outcome. Wait until the full renewable and storage capacity is there, and then compare some temporarily elevated CO2 emissions to permanently lower ones.

        • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
          Another greenie BS. Some old plants were decommissioned but new plants were also built and existing plants were expanded. In 2011 the brown coal was at 19.85GWt and now it's at 20.90GWt, hard coal was at 25.72GWt and now it's at 28.32GWt, natgas was at 27.25GWt and now it's at 29.89GWt (source: https://www.energy-charts.de/p... [energy-charts.de]). Victory for the environment!

          Several new coal power plants are planned and are being constructed: https://www.bdew.de/internet.n... [www.bdew.de]
          • Duh. You forgot to mention that the total net amount of power production in 2011 was also quite a bit smaller.
            Besides, that doesn't mean there are more coal power plants now than there have been in 2011, it just means that several old inefficient power plants were replaced with a smaller amount of more efficient power plants that produce more power from less coal.
            Moreover, look at the government numbers:
            https://www.destatis.de/DE/Zah... [destatis.de]

            You clearly see that the amount of actually produced (not the total inst

      • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @05:10AM (#54461893)

        German power grid is fine, thank you very much. It is one of most advanced in the world, a (small, for now) part of it even uses high temperature superconductors. Neither natural gas nor coal are expanding, matter of fact one of fairly recently built natural gas power plants was closed only a few years after it went online (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irsching_Power_Station) and there is only one new coal power station planned to be built, in Stade, I think so it can reuse parts of the former infrastructure of a shut down nuclear power plant. Also there are two new blocks planned as extensions for existing coal power plants (Niederaussem, Datteln) but that is it, and even these were meant as a more efficient replacement for older coal power stations that will be shut down en masse this and next year. How can you call it "hastely expanding" with a straight face? The 2020 target is a problem because German cars became a lot larger and heavier in the past 15 years, not because of coal power plants.
        By the way, 100500 is a very Russian meme. I do get it, but I think "OVER 9000" is probably more understandable in the rest of the world.

      • they would have had thousands people dead from hypothermia

        They may have been in the dark but no one gets cold when the power goes out. What kind of a neanderthal heats their house via electricity anyway?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What do you mean with "obscene truckloads of taxpayers money"? You mean more than the €40.1 billion Energy tax and the €6.6 billion Electricity tax that taxpayers had to pay in 2016 alone to fund alternative and green energies in Germany?

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      Yes, take the Germans as an example. It's not like they're still massively reliant on coal, phasing out nuclear in favor of importing power from France (guess how they produce it?), and are really unlikely to hit their 2022 phase out goal. Germany shows that a hard turn towards renewables is not effective or realistic.
      • Amazing, who might have thought that an incredibly complex project won't hit its target date. Next your going to tell me it'll be over budget, too!

        And because it won't hit that date (which is actually in the future, so...) the conclusion is that it is not effective or realistic.

        I believe that a lot of very large complex projects did not hit their target dates, yet ended up being both effective and realistic.

        If you're just bitching about the target date being unrealistic: well, yes, of course, nevermind then

    • by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @05:19AM (#54461915) Journal

      In my opinion, what closed the deal on this vote wasn't Fukushima.

      We are currently close to shutting one of the five down due to age anyway. I believe it's one of the oldest reactor types in service currently (and I'm talking worldwide). Suddenly the company operating it says "Uh, no, we haven't prepared any funds for decommissioning the plant. That's your job!"

      So not only is this whole thing a bit questionable security-wise, unless done absolutely right, it just goes to show that the private entities operating these things do not want or are not able to handle the responsibility involved. So after paying them for power for decades, now we're gonna have to foot the bill for cleaning them up, too.

      And THAT pissed a lot of people off, I'm sure.

      While I am pro modern nukes, I don't think they make sense in private hands and anyway, I find decentralized power generation to be much more secure in a variety of ways.

    • by Gryle ( 933382 )
      Do you have sources for any of these numbers you're talking about?
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Is the cost of CO2 also factored in? I mean e.g the amount of money it will take to build higher dikes in Sleswig-Holstein where the majority of the alternative energy comens from? Or are those wind makers build to work under water?

      Also nice to know that SH pays the most in energy, while they produce also all that 'free' energy.

      Since a long time the green party has been scare mongering people about atomic energy and it finaly paid off. Who again said "If you repeat a lie often enough, people think it is tru

    • by athmanb ( 100367 )

      You're right that nuclear power can only exist due to generous subsidies, but the same is really true for fossil fuels too. If anybody had to pay the correct price for coal power, including the capture costs for the CO2 or the compensation to future generations for climate change damages, that form of energy wouldn't be competitive either. And quite possibly even more expensive than honest nuclear power pricing.

      And importantly, that doesn't only count for electric power gained from fossil sources, but also

    • That's the plain and simple truth. Nuclear Fission only looks like it works if it is cross-funded by obscene truckloads of taxpayers money

      That's true now. It wasn't true forty years ago. Oh, nuclear fission was never the "too cheap to meter" dream originally touted, but it actually was extremely economical for a couple of decades. If you'd like to understand what changed, read this [pitt.edu].

  • Proof (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @03:18AM (#54461679) Homepage Journal

    Proof that democracy doesn't always work. People are morons. There are no "greener sources" than nuclear if you want a decent electricity grid with a reliable base load. All that will happen is what's happened elsewhere - wind, solar, and coal/gas to cover the inevitable large shortfalls as they fluctuate like hell (not to mention their massively lower energy density).

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      If only there was some way to store energy, and if only the wind blew at different speeds in different parts of the world, and if only there were more renewable sources of energy than just solar and wind... But I guess those things don't happen in your little world.

    • Yes Hydro! Switzerland was a country where more than 90% (still around 60% today) of its electricity production was coming from hydro power before nuclear was added. So Switzerland has plenty of base load capacity in that form. So before calling other people moron you should at least read and understand the local situation, you would avoid to look like one yourself.
  • When the nuclear power plants have 20-30 years left in them. They'll get some feel-good votes from the anti-nuclear crowd now and it's effortless for some other government who'll be in power 15-20 years from now with looming power shortages to decide to keep them open or to build a few more.
  • by Brian_Ellenberger ( 308720 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @04:20AM (#54461789)

    https://www.technologyreview.c... [technologyreview.com]

    "After years of declines, Germanyâ(TM)s carbon emissions rose slightly in 2015, largely because the country produces much more electricity than it needs. Thatâ(TM)s happening because even if there are times when renewables can supply nearly all of the electricity on the grid, the variability of those sources forces Germany to keep other power plants running. And in Germany, which is phasing out its nuclear plants, those other plants primarily burn dirty coal."

    The whole nuclear debate shows that the left can be just as "anti-science" as the right. Because of scaremongering, nuclear power plant construction and development has been hamstrung for decades. It produces less radiation than coal and scales a lot better than solar or wind. For all the money and jobs in solar it still produces a small percentage of power, even in places like Germany (less than 8%). Wind and solar combined only produce only 22% of energy in Germany.

    If you believe that global warming is about to end the human race, we should be increasing all our options for non-CO2 polluting energy. Especially if you anticipate a huge need in energy as we shift cars from petrol to electric.

    Abandoning nuclear is right when we need it the most is just stupid.

    • All this is being done because...

      "The EPA ran the numbers on the Paris agreement and found that even if climate sensitivity was as strong as CAGW’s hypothetical assumptions, and if the US adhered to the conditions of the 'agreement', it would only reduce global warming by around 0.01C by 2030."
  • Here is a peer reviewed study [stormsmith.nl] on the net energy return of Nuclear Power. Let's just say the outcome isn't positive.

  • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @06:33AM (#54462141) Homepage

    It's a shame that politics have to enter every decision made.

  • Not a big change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @06:33AM (#54462143) Homepage

    It's true enough, the measure passed (FWIW, I voted against it). It's a stupid, knee-jerk reaction, still a follow-on from Fukushima.

    However, in the current European political climate, constructing new nuclear reactors isn't possible anyway. People are too risk averse, there's far too much NIMBY-ness, we *still* don't have a proper solution for long-term waste storage (more NIMBY-ness), fuel-reprocessing barely exists - the whole situation is just impossible. The UK claims they're going to build some new nuclear plants: buy your popcorn now, because it's going to be long show, and most likely they will never happen.

    So forbidding new plants from being built here doesn't really matter. And anyway, the law can just as easily be changed back, should the political climate for nuclear improve.

    No, the biggest problem with the vote that happened yesterday are subsidies: More subsidies for renewables, more subsidies for renovating old buildings, replacing heating systems, etc.. These subsidies totally distort the market, and there are already people speculating on them, because apparently they will be retroactive. Also, it's kind of hilarious: some of the subsidies are to correct the damage done by previous subsidies. When the nuclear plants were originally built, the government subsidized electrical (resistance) heating systems, because electricity was going to be so cheap. Now, it will pay you to get rid of your electrical heating system and put in something else. And in 20 or 30 years, it will be something else again. Stupid.

    The worst aspect of these subsidies is: they are, in the end, just income redistribution. Why does Hans get money from Fred, just because Fred has a new house and Hans bought an old one? Or because Fred invested in a good heating system, and Hans bought a crappy one that he now wants to replace?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <.mojo. .at. .world3.net.> on Monday May 22, 2017 @10:24AM (#54463143) Homepage Journal

      In the UK it's not the fear of accidents that is the primary objection to new nuclear plants, it's the incredible cost. We have to subsidise ours to an absolutely insane level. Guaranteed prices for energy produced, for the lifetime of the plant, plus the usual free insurance and other incentives.

      I don't think people in the UK are more intelligent than the Swiss. In fact, looking at some campaign material for the Swiss vote, it seems that the cost of new nuclear power was the primary objection.

  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @07:06AM (#54462255)

    The there would never be a valid excuse for turning off a working nuclear plant.

    The incredibly small risk of running the plant would be nothing in the face of the dire risk being claimed for climate change.

    Climate change alarmists call out the precautionary principle all the time. What if, what if, what if. To be true to the precautionary principle, the only course of action that should be supported is keeping zero emission plants running.

    • It's a goalpost shift to absurdity to pretend that a proposal to shut down reactors at the end of their planned service life (or beyond in some cases) is "turning off a working nuclear plant".
      Why are you doing it? Are your arguments so weak that you have to resort to fantasy?
      Personally I think you would push your agenda far better if you said something about benefits of new plant instead of pretending that reactors at the end of their service life are just as perfect as on day one.
      • by JWW ( 79176 )

        The barriers to entry for new reactors are absurd to the point of ridiculousness. The regulations are insane.

        That's why new reactor designs, which are really necessary never seem to go anywhere.

        However, the proposal to shut down plants at the end of their planned service life, ignores the fact that that is only the planned life of the reactor. Many plants, both nuclear and otherwise have a "planned" life that is much shorter than could actually be achieved. Same is true for renewables like wind, which co

  • 60% of the electricity generated in Switzerland comes from hydro., a bit less than 40% nuke. But this only accounts for about 15% of domestic consumption.
    The rest is bought from the Germans (burning lovely polluting brown coal) and the French, who have an abundance of cheap nuke electricity...(about the only country in the world that got its nuclear power generating strategy right)

    So, yeah, this is a very "green" decision!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Slalomsk8er ( 976575 )

      Pleas read the article again. Only 15% of the fuel is produced in Switzerland not the electricity. We don't have uranium mines and the like here.

      This statistics include not only electricity but also fuel for cars and machines - we don't have any oil!

      From the same page for a study from 2009:

      The study also showed that the production in Switzerland (64.6 TWh) is similar to the amount of electricity consumed in the country (63.7 TWh).[12] Overall, Switzerland export 7.6 TWh and import 6.8 TWh; but, in terms of

  • Unless they have enough dispatchable energy via hydro and geo-thermal, they are making a horrible mistake.

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