Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste

By Luther J. Carter | Go to book overview

9
Sweden: Robust Solutions

Sweden has in recent years been in a period of relative calm with respect to nuclear power and nuclear waste. But for nearly a decade Sweden was gripped by nuclear controversy, with the waste issue at the heart of much of it. At one point a coalition government actually fell following an internal disagreement over these matters.

Despite past controversy, nuclear power has become an increasingly important Swedish energy source. With two more reactors connected to the grid in March 1985, there are now a total of twelve, located in four coastal stations. They generate 45 percent of Sweden's electric energy, most of the rest coming from hydropower.1 During the 1970s the nuclear controversy seemed to increase in step with the growth of nuclear construction. The controversy abated following the national nuclear referendum of March 1980, by which Swedish voters decided that fission energy would be phased out over the life of the twelve reactors. This decision was subsequently interpreted by the Parliament to mean that all nuclear generation will stop not later than the year 2010, now less than twenty-five years away.

But, in truth, what Sweden's national policy for nuclear power ultimately will be remains uncertain. The Social Democratic government has been sincerely concerned to bring about the nuclear phase-out, particularly since the further loss of popular support that nuclear power has suffered following the Chernobyl accident. The phase-out is supposed to be made possible through increased efforts to improve energy efficiency and development of alternative sources. Yet the outcome of the present policy will almost surely be decided by such factors as the

____________________
1
In 1986 the mix of sources for Swedish electricity generation was: hydropower, 50 percent; nuclear power, 45 percent; oil and coal, 5 percent. Interview by the author, October 20, 1986, with Inge Pierre, nuclear attaché, Embassy of Sweden, Washington, D.C.

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