A referendum on the subject of scrapping forty-five-year-old nuclear plants in Switzerland has resulted in a categorical NO. Put forward by the country's Green Party, the motion was denied by 54.2% of voters. Green Party president, Regula Rytz, said: "The high number of yes (to dismantle nuclear plants) votes confirmed that citizens wanted to opt out of nuclear power in the long run."
The country's energy minister Doris Leuthard was also quoted saying that the vote showed that some citizens were optimistic that Switzerland would one day not have to rely on nuclear power but understand that it is probably still a necessary mechanism of creating energy for the country.
"Voters do not want a hasty shutdown of nuclear power plants. A policy change is not feasible from one day to the next," Leuthard said.
The concern from the other 45.8% of voters - who voted for the dismantling of nuclear power plants - is that the nuclear reactors have been operating since the '70s, hence their safety and maintenance were brought into question. The country has five nuclear reactors that contribute 34.5% of the energy output.
Renewable energy strategies have been established and passed through parliament, but until then, the majority of voters are comfortable with keeping the nuclear plants operating.
The Swiss vote comes after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami scare in Fukushima, Japan. After the tsunami of March 11, 2011, the geographical positioning of Japan's nuclear reactors became an issue of contention. The Fukushima Daiichi plant released radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean after the earthquake and tsunami, an event comparable to the Chernobyl fallout.
A costly decommissioning of the plant is ongoing. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said that the decommissioning process would take 30 years and cost up to $19 billion.
The earthquake on the 21st of November, 2016, brought fresh threats to the other nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Diani plant. The water cooling systems of the third nuclear power plant had stopped working causing temperatures in the nuclear reactor to rise.
The plant's limit is 65 centigrade, and a few hours after the earthquake, it had risen to 28.7 centigrade. It was a dangerous situation.
Engineers eventually brought the reactor under control, but it was a scary reminder that nuclear energy is perhaps too unpredictable to keep secure amid a natural disaster.
The March 2011 disaster in Fukushima signaled a downturn in nuclear power plants being erected. Countries like Germany have completely moved away from nuclear power to avoid any future, potential incidents. Vietnam has also decided to cancel any nuclear power plans.
It seems that the gradual adoption of renewable energy technologies is slowly phasing out any future nuclear power plant deals that are being made around the world. Whether renewables are the more cost-effective approach compared to nuclear energy...time will tell.
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