"Nuclear power has run out of steam." That was prime minister Göran Persson's conclusion earlier this month when the government announced the decommissioning next year of the Barsebäck 2 nuclear plant. A survey has now shown that the Swedish people want to keep nuclear power. But apparently the government isn't out of step with the people, it's the people who are out of step with the government.
The survey, conducted by polling organisation Sifo for SVT's 'Aktuellt' news programme, showed that 64% of the 1,000 interviewed felt that Sweden should continue to use the nuclear power plants currently in use.
16% thought nuclear power should be expanded and 16% thought it should be phased out.
A closer look at the political affiliations of those interviewed made interesting reading. Social Democrat voters were those most in favour of maintaining the status quo (71% support), whilst only 13% of them agreed with the government's policy of phasing out.
Supporters of the Social Democrats' coalition partners, the Greens and Left Party, were not surprisingly most in favour of decommissioning (54% and 45% respectively).
The results support an earlier survey from the beginning of October, which showed that 82% of Swedes supported maintaining current levels of nuclear power or expanding it.
In response to the survey, Marita Ulvskog, the newly appointed party secretary for the Social Democrats, claimed that her party was not out of touch with its supporters on this issue:
"Very few of our voters realise that the Social Democrats have decided to change our energy policy and phase out nuclear power so that it has a minimal impact on jobs and welfare."
One of the winners in this change of policy seems to be wind power. On Tuesday, the Swedish Energy Agency published a list of 49 locations as potential sites for wind farms. The locations are mostly on the coast and around Lake Vänern. Halland heads the list with nine sites, followed by Skåne with seven.
Possible sites in mountainous regions such as Norrbotten and Dalarna have been rejected for environmental reasons and because not enough is known about the wind patterns there.
If all the proposed sites are accepted and go into production, they will produce approximately 5TWh (tera watts per hour) of electricity, or 3.5% of electricity produced this year. The long term goal is to produce 10TWh with wind power.
However, a number of battles have to be fought before the farms become a reality. Måns Hagberg, county architect in Västra Götaland where three farms are proposed, told DN:
"Old rubbish tips and industrial areas are usually accepted. Otherwise people like to complain about wind power. The Energy Agency's list will be well and truly mangled."
But the director of the Energy Agency, Thomas Korsfeldt, sees that wind power's stock is rising and now competes with interests such as defence and the environment for designated areas:
"Now wind power is on an equal footing with other national interests and will be compared with them. That's essential if parliament's aim of increasing production of renewable energy is going to be met."
Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter