17. SWEDEN ELIMINATES ALL NUCLEAR POWER -- HOPES
What may have been one of the most significant
decisions in terms of an industrialized nation's environment, progress, and growth
was made last year. And while it dealt with a controversial issue that has gripped
Americans for more than two decades, it received little media attention here.
June, 1988, the Swedish parliament voted to eliminate all nuclear power by the
Despite electricity prices which are expected to soar and possible
job losses in the hundred thousands, the extraordinary decision found broad-based
support from both the general public and the labor unions.
hope their action sets an international example. "If we show there are good
alternatives to nuclear power, we might be able to persuade others," says
Environment and Energy Minister Birgitta Dahl.
Ironically, Sweden gets a
much larger percentage, 45%, of its electricity from nuclear reactors than most
other countries, and, unlike other countries, has had few problems with its nuclear
Since Sweden has no oil, gas, or coal of its own, many estimates
see electricity prices rising 60 to 70 percent by 2010.
So far, the most
promising replacement power program has been a 13-year-old wind-power program
which has built two full-scale prototype plants with giant windmills on the coast.
Sweden's National Energy Administration reported, however, that at best the wind-produced
power will cost four times as much as the current prices. Other possible solutions
being examined include peat and wood burning, hydropower on currently restricted
rivers, and importing coal and gas.
The government is putting more money
into research and already preparing its citizens for huge price increases by raising
electricity prices charged by the state-owned utility.
To some in Sweden,
the supreme irony is that the safety and environmental concerns that set off the
entire antinuclear movement there will not really be addressed. "How will
we be safer when outside our borders there are 80 reactors as close as Chernobyl?"
asked Curt Nicolin, chairman of a Swedish engineering firm that builds nuclear
plants. Sweden's nuclear fears were intensified by the 1986 accident at Chernobyl
that spewed a cloud of radiation across Sweden.
Sweden's action may not
set much of an example in the United States if our media don't think it is newsworthy.
NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 7/18/88, "Rebottling the nuclear genie," by
Pamela Sherrid, p 43.