Swiss plan two new nuclear plants

SWITZERLAND - Three Swiss utilities have signed an agreement to press ahead with the planning and construction of two nuclear power plants in Switzerland.

After a period of intense negotiations, Axpo, Alpiq Holding AG and BKW FMB Energie AG have agreed to join forces to build nuclear plants to replace older facilities that are nearing the ends of their operational lives. The plants are seen as essential to securing Switzerland's energy security and for greatly reducing the large amount of nuclear power the country has to import from neighbouring France.

The companies will form a single company to handle the planning and construction of the projects, which have yet to be prioritized. The shareholdings in the new venture will be 59 for Axpo 25.5 for Alpiq and 15.5 for BKW, based on the three partners' existing shares of Switzerland's nuclear power production facilities.

"The agreement represents an important breakthrough," said Axpo CEO Heinz Karrer. "It will allow us to continue guaranteeing a virtually CO2-free mix of electricity from hydropower, nuclear energy, and new renewable energies well into the future."

Switzerland has four operational nuclear power plants at Beznau, Mühleberg, Gösgen and Leibstadt, which generate about 40 of the country's electricity. Hydropower accounts for 55, with renewable and conventional power supplying the remaining 5.

In November 2009, all three companies put forward plans to build three nuclear power plants, each with a projected generation capacity of 1,600 megawatts MW.

Alpiq wants to build a 1,020-MW plant that was commissioned in 1979 near its Gösgen facility. Axpo and BKW formed a joint venture, Resun AG, to develop two other nuclear projects. Axpo's 730-MW Beznau facility and BKW's 390-MW Muehleberg nuclear power station in the Bern canton are due to close in 2020. At the same time, the 355-MW Mill Mountain hydro plant will close and a long-term power supply import agreement between Switzerland and France will end. This will result in a combined capacity loss of 2,300 MW, leaving Switzerland facing an energy crisis until new nuclear plants are brought online in 2025.

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate confirmed in November that it would be feasible to build new reactors at all three sites.


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