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DATE News (chronologically)
02/07/09
automotive
European countries rush to convert to Nuclear power
[Editor's Note: This article is a follow-up to our feature article back in May titled Are Nuclear Power Plants and Electric Cars the way forward?  Duh.....well of course they are the way forward.  The use of fossil fuels must end.]  Sweden says it will overturn a ban on building new nuclear-power stations, in a further sign of how concerns about climate change and energy security are fueling a nuclear renaissance across Europe.

Swedes voted to phase out nuclear power in 1980, shortly after the Three Mile Island accident in the U.S. Since then, two of the country's 10 reactors have been shut down. But Sweden's coalition government said on Thursday that it will present a bill to parliament in March calling a halt to the phase-out and allowing nuclear construction, as part of a new climate and energy policy.

Sweden now has 10 reactors, which produce just under half of the country's electricity.

If lawmakers approve the bill, Sweden will join a growing list of countries rethinking their opposition to nuclear energy, as unease about global warming and oil prices outweighs fears about the safety of nuclear installations. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear plants don't emit much of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

The shift took on greater urgency after the European gas crisis last month, when a pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine led to a halt in supplies of Russian natural gas to Eastern Europe in midwinter, prompting fresh calls for the European Union to diversify its sources of energy away from Russia.

The spat "helped people to understand what security of supply means ... and how risky it is to be so dependent on imports for your energy needs," said Luis Echávarri, director-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency.

In the wake of the crisis, Slovakia, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, moved to reopen an obsolete, Soviet-type nuclear reactor it had closed as a condition of joining the European Union. It later reversed the decision after Russian gas started flowing again.

Similarly, Bulgaria sought EU permission to resurrect two old reactors of Soviet design that it mothballed when it joined the bloc two years ago.

But even before the Russia-Ukraine spat, European countries were shifting their stance on nuclear power.

Italy, which prohibited nuclear power in 1987 after the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, moved last year to lift the ban. Poland, worried about its heavy dependence on coal for generation of electricity, has announced plans to build its first nuclear-power station. The U.K. last year gave the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear-power stations to replace the nine that are due to be retired by 2023. WSJ.com

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