Country profile: Switzerland

Summary figures for 2012

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Country
Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2012
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
Switzerland
5
24.1
*
35.5
 
OECD Europe
133
849.0
24.0
 
Total
331
1 884.0
18.9
 

* Secretariat estimate

Country report

Consequences of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi

In 2011, the Swiss government declared that it would apply itself to learning lessons from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and introduce the necessary measures.

Accordingly, after establishing an emergency equipment centre at a site separate from existing nuclear sites, the safety authority launched an in-depth reassessment of the ability of Swiss power plants to withstand earthquakes, flooding and extreme weather conditions.

The safety authority has recently come to the conclusion that since the cooling of the core and fuel rod storage pools would remain operational in the event of an earthquake followed by flooding, the power plants could therefore remain in service. It nonetheless issued a series of new requests in order to complete its analysis.

The five operating nuclear power plants must also demonstrate, by the end of 2013, that they are sufficiently protected against incidents caused by extreme weather conditions.

To conduct its analysis the safety authority added to its own tests, the stress tests designed by the European Union.

Nuclear waste storage

In the nuclear waste sector, the implementation of the "sectoral plan for deep geological disposal" which should allow a site to be chosen for a deep geological repository is ongoing.

Six potential sites for a repository have been chosen and 20 sites were declared technically suitable for waste disposal. Reactions in the regions concerned and the national media were extremely negative once the locations of the planned waste disposal sites were announced. At present, conferences are being held in the regions concerned. Experience shows that this consultation process takes time. The current timetable has the last of these conferences being held at the end of 2013.

Moreover, the initial results of the study on the socioeconomic and ecological impacts of deep geological disposal in each of the six regions concerned have been released. They indicate that the economic impact is relatively low in all six regions. The full study will be ready in the autumn of 2013.

Within a few years, this process should make it possible to select a site for low- and medium-level radioactive wastes and another site for highly radioactive wastes. A combined repository could also be feasible.

Energy Strategy 2050 and ecological fiscal reform

The Swiss Federal Council and Parliament have decided to gradually phase out the use of nuclear power in the wake of the nuclear accident that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011. To ensure that Switzerland has a competitive and safe supply of power, the Federal Council is planning a phased transformation of the Swiss energy system. It recently established the legal basis related to an initial package of measures.

Quantitative objectives

The Federal Council wishes to reduce energy and electricity consumption. Average per capital annual energy consumption must be reduced by 35% compared with the 2000 level by 2035. Energy consumption must also be stabilised from 2020 onwards. It is planned to increase annual hydropower generation to at least 37 400 GWh and to increase the share of other renewable energies to 11 940 GWh between now and 2035.

Increased efficiency

The main measures concern the building sector. Specifications regarding the energy consumption of appliances and lighting will be made more stringent.

Increase in the share of renewable energy sources

Electricity grids

In tandem with the development of renewable energies and integration into the European electricity grid, it is necessary to modernise and enlarge the electricity grid and make use of smart technologies. Modernisation and development would have become essential even without the phasing-out of nuclear power. In the Law on Electricity Supply, the Federal Council provides the legal basis for the introduction of smart electricity meters. To speed up the development of the grid, the Federal Council proposes that only appeals concerning legal principles be allowed to be brought before the Federal Tribunal with regard to the approval of high-voltage and low-voltage facilities. The authorities will be granted a maximum period of two years to complete sectoral planning and planning approval procedures. The electricity grid strategy which the Federal Council will debate in the autumn contains other measures relating to the grid.

Electricity generation from fossil fuels and electricity imports

Energy and electricity imports will continue to be essential in order to safeguard the security of supply. It will be necessary to temporarily develop electricity generation from fossil fuels through the use of combined heat and power (CHP) plants, and probably gas-fired combined-cycle plants too, until energy needs can be fully covered by renewable energy sources.

Second stage in the Energy Strategy 2050 and ecological fiscal reform

For the post-2020 period, the Federal Council envisages a new stage in which new lines of directions will be drawn up jointly for climate policy and energy policy.

Energy prices

Switzerland currently spends around CHF 31 billion (Swiss francs) a year on energy, including about CHF 9 billion on electricity. Prices of imported fuels and fuel oil have increased dramatically in recent years. The measures proposed will make it possible to reduce consumption and expenditure and at the same time reduce imports and dependency on foreign suppliers.

An opposite trend is starting to emerge with regard to electricity. The prices paid by end-users have remained stable, or in some cases fallen, because power plants and the grid have already been largely depreciated. In addition, prices range by almost 40% inside Switzerland. Current electricity prices, which amount to an average of CHF 890 a year for the average household, will increase as a result of the currently higher generating costs of electricity from renewable sources, investments in the grid and the slight increase in public taxes. To avoid overburdening the economy and industry, the Federal Council plans to introduce tax breaks for major consumers.

Possible lines of direction for an ecological fiscal reform

With respect to the legislative programme for the years 2011 to 2015, the Federal Council has made it known that it wants to submit to parliament a message on ecological fiscal reform. Including an ecological fiscal reform in the second stage of the Energy Strategy 2050, which would create incentives aimed at securing a substantial improvement in energy efficiency and reducing energy demand.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2013

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Last reviewed: 11 December 2013