Swiss voters are backing their government’s plan to eliminate the use of nuclear power plants, and replace them with renewable energy. Switzerland is not the first European country to cease the use of nuclear energy. The urgency of the matter was partially provoked by the 2011 Japanese Fukushima tragedy, leading Austria to remove all nuclear power plants and induce Germany to implement their elimination of nuclear power plants plan by 2020.
The Swiss government’s plan includes billions of dollars in subsidies put towards the use of renewable energy, prohibiting nuclear plants, and aiding utilities in the referendum. Strictly from opinion poll data, over 55% of voters are in favor of the referendum, leaving little room for doubt on the outcome. Currently there are only 5 nuclear plants located in Switzerland, with one closing in 2019, and if all goes as expected, none will be added. The prevailing plants will be allowed to operate as long as they abide by standards and restrictions regardless of whether the referendum passes or not.
Supporters of the referendum hope to see the pledged boost in renewable energies including wind and water, along with the push to make appliances and cars more environmentally sustainable. The opposition however, warns against the sizable increase in their annual electric bill. Whereas supporters estimate the extra cost for subsidies and reliance on imported electricity to round about 40 francs a year for a family of four, voters against the referendum estimate it would cost nearly 3,200 francs extra per year.
Switzerland’s current energy production is compromised of 35% nuclear power, 60% hydro power, and only 5% solar and wind power. Energy Minister and current Swiss President, Doris Leuthard oversees and backs the 2050 Energy Strategy. Though the plan involves phasing out the current 5 nuclear plants that generate a third of the countries energy, the transition to biomass, geothermal, wind, and solar powered energy will long-term be more efficient, and encourage growth in the Swiss economy.
Despite the claims of the Swiss People’s Party that the accrual of solar panels and other energy efficient structures would negatively impact the countries natural beauty, the contrasting estimate of annual household cost, and the allegation that the plan will destroy the country’s energy supply, the Swiss voters are encouraging the plan for safety and efficiency purposes. The referendum even proposes a 43% energy consumption reduction per person within the next 18 years, along with the increase in GWh capacity from its’ current 2,831 GWh to 11,400 GWh of renewable power sources.
The phasing out of Swiss nuclear power will begin in 2019, after first being passed last November and challenged by the NVP who called for a nationwide vote. The vote had a 42.4% turnout, with majority voting in favor of the referendum.
Many voters are arguing that the cost, whether the small increase as the government predicts, or the large cost the right-wing political party estimates, is worth the positive change. The value in eliminating dangerous and non-renewable nuclear plants is a necessary development for the betterment of the country and the Earth.
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