EMBA visit to Gösgen Nuclear Power Plant

When: Monday 24, from 12

Where: Gösgen-Däniken Nuclear Power Plant

About nuclear reactors in Switzerland…

Switzerland has five nuclear reactors generating up to 40% of its electricity. Two large new units were planned.
•National votes have confirmed nuclear energy as an ongoing part of Switzerland’s electricity mix.
•In June 2011 parliament resolved not to replace any reactors, and hence to phase out nuclear power gradually, and this was confirmed in a 2017 referendum.

Electricity consumption in Switzerland has been growing at about 2% per year since 1980. To ensure security of supply during winter months, Swiss utilities have long-term contracts with EDF to import 2500 MWe of French nuclear power, at a price premium. In March 2017 the National Council voted 136 to 52 to maintain this arrangement. Per capita consumption is about 7000 kWh/yr. While there are no current plans to build more nuclear plants, $12 billion in hydro projects is reported.

Gösgen Nuclear Power Plant

The first discussions about the construction of the third Swiss nuclear power plant started in 1966. In 1970 the formal request was submitted to the federal authorities. Initially foreseeing a river water cooling, the blueprints had to be modified in order to meet a new federal regulation that in 1971 forbade such systems for future plants. After the introduction of a cooling tower, the authorities issued the location authorization on 31 October 1972. The construction started in summer 1973, after that a series of local permits had been granted. The commissioning was authorized on 29 September 1979. The KKG was ready to start operation in February 1979, but the Three Mile Island accident led the Swiss Federal Council to order a security check on the Swiss plants that took some months. It eventually entered its commercial phase on 1 November 1979.The unlimited operating license was issued on 29 September 1978.

Over the years the gross plant output has been increased from the initial 970 MW to 990 MW (1992) and finally to the present 1020 MW by a series of small changes in the reactor configuration and the installation of new low pressure turbines.

The last significant change to the KKG was the construction of a new storage facility for spent rods. It entered operation in 2008.

Acceptance

In the 1970s the opposition to the construction of new plants increased in importance. Despite the accident at the Lucens Nuclear Power Plant, the debate mostly regarded technical aspects such as the construction of facilities in densely populated areas or the cooling system. Numerous were the concerns about an overexploitation of the Aar and Rhine waters, already used for the cooling of the Beznau and Mühleberg stations and in numerous hydroelectric plants. In March 1971 the Federal Council forbade the use of river water for direct cooling of new plants. Since the KKG should also have been cooled by the Aar, the project had to be adapted by adding the cooling tower.

With the submission of the construction request in 1972 numerous formal oppositions were presented by groups and individuals at federal, cantonal, and communal level. All were rejected and construction started in 1973. In the meantime the oil crisis and the resulting awareness of the need of an energy mix diversification decreased the resistance to nuclear power.

The confrontation revived in summer 1977. Over the Pentecost weekend around 3000 opponents a day participated to a protest march towards the plant construction site. On 25 June 1977 2000-3000 activists tried to occupy the accesses to the KKG and had to be dispersed by the police. The same scuffles took place two weeks later between 6000 demonstrators and 1000 policemen. Still the plant got the authorization to start operation in 1979. The continual strong opposition to the KKG induced the federal authorities in 1980 to call a hearing about the plant safety. They concluded that the plant satisfied all legal requirements and could continue operation. In April 1981 the last formal oppositions were rejected by the Federal Council, putting an end to a decade of intense confrontation.

The Chernobyl disaster rekindled the opposition to nuclear power, which led in 1987 to a cantonal initiative for shutting down the KKG. This was eventually rejected by the Solothurn citizens with a 73% majority. Except for the 10 year building suspension for new plants of 1990, approved by the 52.5%,the same fate has been reserved by the cantonal population to all other federal initiatives proposing anticipated shutdowns or moratoria. In 2007 the cantonal parliament entrusted the government to act in order to promote the building of a new plant in the Niederamt region, between Olten and Aarau.
7000 kWh/yr. While there are no current plans to build more nuclear plants, $12 billion in hydro projects is reported.

 

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