The reactor accident that occurred at the Fukushima Daijichi nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011 as the result of an earthquake and tsunami prompted debate in numerous countries concerning the use of nuclear energy. In addition to Switzerland, Germany also decided to withdraw from nuclear energy use following the accident that occurred in Japan.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expects the proportion of nuclear energy to increase significantly worldwide during the next few decades, though to the greatest extent in the Middle East and the Far East. According to the IAEA, a decline in the use of nuclear energy is only to be expected in Western Europe, primarily as a consequence of decisions by a variety of countries to withdraw from its use or to impose a moratorium. At present, the countries most strongly in favour of nuclear energy use are France, Slovakia and Belgium. France meets three-quarters of its national electricity demand through the use of nuclear energy, while Slovakia and Belgium meet around half their national demand with this technology.
There are currently around 440 nuclear power plants in operation throughout the world. While their number is stagnating, the installed capacity is increasing, and currently amounts to around 370 GW. New reactors are being constructed or planned in various countries. For example, a third generation facility (European pressurised water reactor) is under construction in France, and a second plant is in the planning stage. Finland is also constructing a new reactor and plans to construct two additional power plants. And in the USA, approval was given in February 2012 for the construction of two reactors.
Within the scope of the "Generation IV International Forum", thirteen members - Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Euratom, France, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, the UK and the USA - are monitoring the development of new, innovative reactors and fuel cycles to be put into use from 2030 onwards.
The Swiss Federal Office of Energy combines international aspects with its domestic energy policy and represents Switzerland in international organisations in a variety of ways, e.g.:
- By serving on high-level committees of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the OECD, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its experts' committees, and by attending international conferences;
- By participating in multilateral negotiations in the area of energy policy, notably in the fields of peaceful use of nuclear energy (IAEA, NEA), the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and monitoring of nuclear exports;
- By participating in bilateral negotiations and serving on bilateral committees dealing with the safety of nuclear installations, e.g. the Franco-Swiss Committee for the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CFS) and the German-Swiss Committee for the Safety of Nuclear Installations (DSK).