Switzerland has rejected plans to quickly phase out nuclear power generation. Voters went to the polls in a referendum today to vote on whether to limit the age of nuclear power stations to 45, effectively banning them by 2029.
Swiss voters were projected to have rejected the plans by 54 per cent to 46 per cent, according to the Zurich-based newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung.
The news comes as a boost to Europe’s nuclear industry which has come under increasing political pressure over the last five years.
The backlash against nuclear power, long a staple part of Europe’s energy supply, was given momentum by the disastrous 2011 meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima plant following a major earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Germany subsequently announced that it would abandon nuclear power by 2022.
The referendum was put to voters with strong backing from the green movement. The Swiss Green party argued that Switzerland’s nuclear power stations present a risk to citizen safety, despite their relatively low carbon footprint.
Regula Rytz, co-president of the alliance backing the motion, said: “We are pleased with the broad support given by the population – on the other hand, it is, of course, a bitter feeling that the referendum vote has not been successful.”
Switzerland currently has five nuclear power stations, but has not built a new nuclear power station since 1984. Three reactors would have been forced to close next year followed by the other two by 2029.
The Green party gathered together the 50,000 signatures needed to trigger the referendum under Switzerland’s direct democracy system. Switzerland has a population of around 8.2m.
Switzerland as a nation holds more referendums than anywhere else in the world with a tradition of direct democracy going back over 100 years. Swiss voters have already this year rejected plans to provide a universal basic income, and to limit the pay of public sector executives.