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The Swiss government has decided to exit nuclear power by phasing out the country's existing nuclear plants and seeking alternative energy sources, in a response to security concerns following Japan's nuclear disaster.

Switzerland is the second country in Europe, after Germany, to drop nuclear energy as an electricity source. The government hasn't yet fixed a date for when the last nuclear-power station will go offline.  The country's five existing reactors have operating licenses that expire between 2020 and 2040.

Switzerland generates roughly 40% of its energy from the country's five nuclear reactors. The rest comes mostly from the more than 1,000 hydropower plants located in the Alps and along Switzerland's rivers. The government will invest in new hydroelectric plants and attempt to add wind and solar, which are not reliable sources of baseload power. 



Switzerland's decision to discontinue the country's nuclear-power plants comes as a shock to Swiss utilities. Leading power companies Axpo Holding AG and BKW FMB AG had planned to build two new plants, and pledged to invest some $10 billion. The companies had said new plants are needed if Switzerland wants to avoid being dependent on expensive energy imports. The companies also warned that Swiss industry would suffer from high energy costs.

The Center agrees with the position of the utilities that there are no viable alternatives to nuclear energy for delivering bulk baseload electrical power. (WSJ, 5/26/2011)