Nuclear energy in Switzerland.

Nuclear energy in Switzerland.

Nuclear energy in Switzerland

From: Daniel Keller
Added: 28.12.10
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Currently, considerable debate is supposed to look like the future electricity supply in Switzerland. 2020, the first three nuclear power plants (Benznau I & II and Muhlenberg) are switched off due to age. To 2045 are the other two (Gösgen body and city) will follow. Concurrently, from the current import contracts with France 2020th That is why now discussing whether the nuclear power plants should be renewed.

This text gives a brief overview of the current situation and will then get into the pros and cons of nuclear power. To enable a comparison, save the potential of electricity, the possibility of importing electricity and the electricity production from renewable energy sources in short, if addressed incomplete.

Current Situation

Currently produce in Switzerland five nuclear power plants (NPP) 40% of Switzerland's electricity needs. Another 10% imported to Switzerland from France.

The power consumption in Switzerland has risen steadily in recent years. This increase depends primarily on population and economic growth (GDP) and the technical means. As a result, there are several predictions for future electricity consumption. In Figure 1, the data were used by Axpo, is expected in a high and a low scenario. However, there are to these scenarios against, a higher savings, calculated as the Axpo, to keep realistic. Thus, the current consumption would not only stagnate but actually decrease. The problem with such calculations is always that they are influenced by the GDP and this can be estimated only long-term. Ignored is the purely economic discussion to rise by less that the current offer price, and would thus consume less automatically.

The current debate over the renewal of nuclear power turns the question is whether there will be a current issue or not. As this in this text can not be answered, will only investigate whether the production and import failure can be replaced 50% of electricity by other means, whether by their own power production, electricity imports or through energy efficiency.

Figure 1: Power consumption scenarios of Axpo

Security of electricity supply

There are basically two ways to secure the future energy supply: power save and / or looking for a new power source.

Save electricity

According to a study by Swiss environmental organizations would reduce a consistent use of already available technologies in energy consumption by 2050 by 40%. According to FOE could be the total energy consumption by 2035 fell by 14%. (More on that in the text "energy-saving potential of Switzerland"). So that different studies come to the conclusion that only a lowered power consumption is not saving the amount that is currently provided by the NPPs.

New power sources

Since power saving alone is not enough, for now have new power sources are used. These are divided into electricity import and / or own generation.

Electricity imports

Experts believe that electricity in the future are not as favorable as now be imported, since the partial liberalization of the electricity market, prices are gradually adapted to the overall market and suppliers thus have no incentive to siphon not the entire profit margin. Axpo is even in question whether Switzerland can not negotiate at all new power purchase agreements with France (and also other countries). The opponents of nuclear energy are assuming that wind from the north, but also at a higher price, could be imported (more on that in the text "Future electricity supply in Switzerland").

Own power generation

The following are the costs of environmental pollution and the supply of renewable energies and nuclear power plants are considered. In each case considered the advantages and disadvantages throughout the life cycle of energy production. Other electricity options such as gas power plants are not addressed here.

Renewable Energy

Switzerland has by international standards a high proportion of renewable energies in electricity production. So make the hydro plants for about 55% of electricity generation. However, the construction of hydroelectric power plants is already pretty exhausted, as they can be built only in certain places. The situation is different with wind power plants, solar energy (photovoltaics) and more efficient use of waste heat. Where Switzerland has more potential for expansion.

Direct costs

The construction cost of production with renewable energy (excluding hydro) are opposed to nuclear power plants is very low. In wind turbines in the megawatt range is anticipated construction costs of about 1000 - 1500 CHF per kilowatt hour (kWh). Renewable energy also does not consume limited resources. Only for the construction of the facilities finite resources are needed. Therefore also fall virtually no disposal costs. Since the electricity is from renewable energy sources as opposed to nuclear power plants is very secure and no other serious risks are known, the insurance policy in the production cost calculation is not so highly significant as in the nuclear power plants.

The production cost (excluding external costs such as pollution, health effects, etc.) is estimated to be calculating in the previously mentioned expenses on 7.5 to 33 cents / kWh for wind power plants, 55-151 cents / kWh for solar electricity (photovoltaics) and 9.5 to 25 cents / kWh for geothermal energy. The fall in compared to the high cost of nuclear power plants, as production is still very expensive. In particular, the environmental groups, however, assume that the production costs of renewable energy, thanks to technological advances and larger plants can be reduced in future.

Environmental pollution and hazards

Although renewable energies relate to infinite resources, even they are not entirely CO2. But the production of the plant releases CO2. In water, the power output amounts to the Paul Scherrer Institute in 4g/kWh in the wind on 38g/kWh 14g/kWh and solar energy. The other environmental risks, meanwhile, is but compared to the NPP is very small.

Security of supply

Currently it is still not clear whether renewable energy can replace the volume of production of nuclear power plants. This is precisely the central point in the debate. Nuclear power opponents are convinced that with the help of consistent power save today's technology is so advanced that renewable energy could replace nuclear power plants in the future.

Nuclear power plants

Direct costs

The construction of nuclear power stations will cost approximately CHF 70-10 billion Thus, the investment cost compared to other types of power plants high. In addition, although uranium today is still relatively cheap, the price will increase but long-term strongly with increasing scarcity. This would also increase the cost of nuclear power. NPP supporters argue, however, that uranium currently makes up only about 5% of the production costs of nuclear power. Accordingly, could result in a doubling of today's uranium price only to a 5% increase in electricity prices.

Also fall in higher disposal costs at nuclear power plants than for the production of renewable energy. For the disposal of waste from the nuclear power generation per kilowatt hour (kWh) 1 cents is charged. However, opponents find this calculation set too low, since all the external costs of environmental damage (and future damage to humans, etc.) were not included.

Finally, nuclear power is obtained in a high insurance. The operators of nuclear power plants now have to take out liability insurance by law, the damage in an accident at a height of up to CHF covers 1.8 billion. The relevant insurance premium is also part of the production costs of nuclear energy.

Counting the costs over the entire life cycle, ie from uranium mining to disposal together, nuclear energy is currently depending on the calculations of the cheapest forms of electricity production. How expensive is nuclear power, depends strongly on the calculation assumptions. Axpo is based on production costs of 4 to 5.5 cents / kWh. Greenpeace notes, however, scientific studies of foreign universities posed by production costs up to 12 cents / kWh. At that price comparison is to note, however, that only costs are taken into account the need to pay the electricity producer actually. All costs of externalities are not taken into account.

Environmental pollution and hazards

The electricity production with nuclear power is not CO2 free. Although the production itself is effectively free of ejections, the reduction of uranium as well as the construction of the plant, but CO2. The calculations of the experts predict this far apart. The Paul Scherrer Institute expects 8 - 11g CO2 / kWh, the Storm Smith trial with about 125 g CO2 / kWh and the world is based on a section of about 60 g CO2 / kWh. As with less uranium mining effort in the future increases, you have to expect long term with higher CO2 emissions.

Nevertheless, both produce nuclear energy and renewable energies compared to fossil fuels like oil and up to 80 times compared to gas up to 60 times less CO2, and here too there is some major differences between various studies.

Nuclear power plants but also involve high risks. In the production of nuclear energy could leak radioactive material or it could even lead to a meltdown with far-reaching and drastic consequences. The damage that results from such an accident can be extremely large and is difficult to quantify. As an example, the disaster at Chernobyl, it is noted. In Switzerland, it came last in 1969 a core melt accident. The radioactivity was indeed a local basis, but the cleanup lasted until 1973 or 2003.

As already mentioned, the legal risk insurance is limited to damages up to CHF 1.8 billion, because the damage could be far higher in a big accident, uninsured losses also represent external costs and would ultimately by citizens or by the State be borne. The NPP supporters stress that is minimal due to the high safety standards and the newest nuclear power plant types, the risk of accidents.

Another risk involves the disposal. In the production of nuclear energy generates radioactive waste. Because this radiation is currently known up to 100,000 years, which might cause damage to the waste that would not also be covered completely. However, technical developments not yet be estimated, which would reduce the storage time. Currently, 100,000 years ago but still go out, even if it is mathematically too great a period of time to assess everything.

Security of supply

Public transport, industry, or even the hospitals are very heavily dependent on a constant and reliable power supply. On nuclear energy in this respect compared with other forms of electricity production, we must distinguish between short-and long-term security of supply. Since the fuel rods for nuclear power stations can be stored for up to 2 years, nuclear energy has in this short time window to a very high security of supply. Unlike solar, hydro or wind energy is nuclear energy as not dependent on unpredictable environmental conditions such as sunlight and rain. Also, delivery failures (eg due to political unrest in the country of origin) can be bridged so contrary to natural gas, for example, longer. In the longer term, Switzerland is also in the use of nuclear energy depends on uranium supplies from abroad.

Conclusion and outlook

The Switzerland has to solve the question of how they will replace the production capacity of the failing nuclear power plants. Whether to approve new nuclear power plants and tends more to renewable energy depends on the one hand, depends on how one views the potential of renewable energy and fuel savings. On the other hand, but also how to weight the merits of the various forms of electricity production (vs. risks. Low electricity prices).

As already submitted three applications for the construction of new nuclear power plants and were against the granting of new nuclear power stations would almost certainly an optional referendum is taken, the people likely to decide in 2013 on the building permit.

Because of the steps up to a new nuclear power plant (see box) could provide a new power plant earlier than 2023 current. To bridge the effort now to the failed nuclear power plant and electricity import contracts, the Federal Council plans to build gas fired combined cycle power plants.

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