Nuclear energy

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In Switzerland, nuclear energy is used solely for peaceful purposes, i.e. for producing electricity and for applications in medicine, industry and research.

Its use was initiated here in May 1957 when the first research reactor was put into operation. In the early 1960s, in view of the fact that the existing hydropower capacities were already largely exhausted, the Federal Council resolved to develop the use of nuclear energy in order to meet the rapidly growing demand for electricity.

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Nuclear power plants in operation in Switzerland
© swisstopo SFOE

The commercial use of nuclear energy was initiated in 1969 with the handover for operation of Beznau I nuclear power plant. Beznau II and Mühleberg were commissioned in 1972, followed by Gösgen in 1979 and Leibstadt in 1984.

In 2008, the operators of Switzerland’s nuclear power plants submitted three applications for the construction of new nuclear power plants. In the wake of the accident at the Japanese Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, in March 2011 the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) decided to suspend the ongoing general licence applications for new nuclear power plants. In the course of that year, the resolutions by the Federal Council and Parliament to withdraw from the use of nuclear energy on a step-by-step basis resulted in the formulation of a new federal energy policy (Energy Strategy 2050). The nuclear power plant operators withdrew their three applications at the end of 2016.

In May 2017, the Swiss electorate accepted the revised Federal Energy Act upon the publication of the initial package of measures for Energy Strategy 2050. The granting of new general licences for nuclear power plants was prohibited with effect from 1 January 2018.

Mühleberg nuclear power plant was shut down in December 2019 and is currently being dismantled. Switzerland’s other nuclear power plants are still in operation. In Switzerland there is no legally specified duration of the service life of nuclear power plants. They may continue to be operated as long as they are safe.

Last modification 02.07.2020

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