23.05.2019 | The benefits of a secure domestic power supply

50 years Beznau nuclear power plant

The power supply in Switzerland is almost C02-free and secure. Will it continue to be so in the future? This was discussed controversially at the annual meeting of the Nuklearforum in Baden. It also dealt with the question of how important nuclear energy is as a bridging technology for the implementation of the Energy Strategy 2050.

About 170 people took part in the annual meeting 2019 of the Nuklearforum. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Beznau nuclear power plant, the achievements of nuclear energy for the economy and society were honoured. In December 1969, the first unit of the KKB was put into commercial operation after a construction period of only four years. Around 70 percent of the work and supplies had been awarded to Swiss companies at the time. The driving factors behind the move into nuclear energy were a foreseeable domestic production shortfall and plans for the construction of oil-fired power plants. These generated a broad political debate, which created a broad consensus for the use of nuclear energy in Switzerland with a view to ecological considerations.

Today, however, the 50th anniversary falls into a completely different time and is accompanied by completely different framework conditions: With the Federal Council's Yes to the Energy Strategy 2050, the Swiss population has sealed its nuclear phase-out and is counting on the expansion of new renewable energies. However, climate policy concerns about the construction of gas-fired power plants and increasingly uncertain import opportunities due to the foreseeable shortage of electricity in neighbouring countries are calling into question the reliability of Switzerland's electricity supply in the future. The positions adopted at yesterday's event were correspondingly controversial.

Almost CO2-free electricity mix

In his greeting message, Hans-Ulrich Bigler, President of Nuklearforum and National Councillor of the FDP, emphasised the quality of the almost CO2-free Swiss electricity mix of the last 50 years and referred to the discussion in the media, which was increasingly insistent, that the security of supply of the future would be called into question. It was more than doubtful that the missing electricity could be imported from nearby foreign countries, he said with reference to German studies, which predict an energy shortage in Southern Germany as early as 2023.

Benoît Revaz, Head of the Federal Office of Energy

The director of the Federal Office of Energy, Benoît Revaz, on the other hand, did not see any supply problems until 2035. The implementation of the federal government's energy strategy is on course and renewable energies will replace nuclear energy in the future. Switzerland has no performance problems, even if the nuclear power plants are shut down. Thanks to constant monitoring, Switzerland could counter any supply difficulties at an early stage. But Revaz also stressed, that the integration of Switzerland into Europe is crucial.

Walter Nef, the former head of the Beznaus nuclear power plant, praised the achievements of nuclear energy to date for society, the economy and the environment. The 50 years of electricity from nuclear energy are a Swiss success story, which represents one of the foundations of Switzerland's prosperity. In view of the fact that new renewable energies make hardly any contribution to security of supply, especially in winter, he was convinced that nuclear energy must continue to play an important role in the future.

Mike Dost, Head of Beznau Nuclear Power Plant and Hansjörg Knecht (r.), SVP National Councillor

In the subsequent panel discussion - skilfully chaired by SRF journalist and talk host Sonja Hasler - these different positions were deepened. Mike Dost, the current manager of the Beznau nuclear power plant, emphasized that the plant fully meets today's safety requirements thanks to continuous retrofitting and renewal investments. The high availability shows the good condition the plant is still in. He described the ongoing campaign against the plant as politically motivated and inappropriate.

Panelists at the annual meeting of the Nuklearforum in Baden
Important bridge technology

Hansjörg Knecht, National Councillor SVP, co-owner and managing director Knecht Mühle AG, stated that supply security should not be put at risk. He pointed out the current importance of electricity from nuclear power and demanded that existing nuclear power plants should not be exposed to unnecessary regulatory and financial burdens. Electricity is an important infrastructure service and all options must be kept open. That is why research in the field of nuclear energy is also important.

Frank R. Ruepp, President of the Interessengemeinschaft Energieintensiver Branchen I-GEB, also agreed. A high supply security and an affordable electricity production are the basis for the successful existence in the location and economic competition.

Benoît Revaz and Eric Nussbaumer, National Councillor SP, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ADEV Energiegenossenchaft, defended the Energy Strategy 2050. The expansion of new renewable energies should not be hindered, then things would go well. "This is a question of political will," explained Nussbaumer.

Dr. Christian Schaffner, Executive Director Energy Science Center at ETH Zurich, praised Switzerland's innovative capacity. Ultimately, security of supply is guaranteed by international cooperation. At the end of the event, Hans-Ueli Bigler expressed his delight at the controversial and committed discussion and his hope that the secure and domestic supply of electricity would continue to be guaranteed in the future.

More information can be found here: www.nuklearforum.ch

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