Nuclear Power: Election Issue?

Swedish pro-government and opposition parties demanded Friday that the Cabinet clarify its stance on nuclear power following the shutdown of half of the country’s nuclear reactors after an electrical malfunction at one power plant.

Prime Minister Göran Persson and his Cabinet have been reticent on the subject, although they are bound by a 1980 referendum in which the Swedes chose to end their reliance on nuclear power.

The government announced a plan in 1997 to phase out all the reactors and two of the original 12 reactors have been closed.

The Left Party, which helps the ruling Social Democrats keep a parliament majority, said it wants the government to speed up the planned phase-out of nuclear power in Sweden and that one of the country’s 10 reactors be shut for good before 2010.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Fredrik Reinfeldt of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party criticized Persson for not having spoken out on the issue since two backup generators at Sweden’s Forsmark plant malfunctioned during a power failure last week.

Since then, three of the country’s nuclear reactors have been shut down while inspectors investigate whether the same malfunction could happen at other plants. Two other reactors are off the grid for yearly routine maintenance.

While recent opinion polls show wide support among Swedes for keeping nuclear power, the issue could now become sensitive before national elections next month.

Reinfeldt told the news agenct TT that ”I think it is time now that Göran Persson gives an answer about what happens if” Sweden gets ”a left-wing majority after the election.” He added that ”We can all see that a shutdown, or having power plants not in use, will lead to higher electricity prices.”

Left Party leader Lars Ohly said he thinks all nuclear plants should be shut down by 2025, with at least one off the grid by 2010, according to Friday’s editions of newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.