Swiss put nuclear power on ice

Switzerland suspended plans to build and replace nuclear plants today in the wake of the Japanese disaster.

Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said the ban would affect all “blanket authorisation for nuclear replacement until safety standards have been carefully reviewed and if necessary adapted.”

Three sites for new nuclear power stations had been approved after the plans were submitted in 2008.

“Safety and well-being of the population have the highest priority,” said ms Leuthard, who ordered the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate to analyse the exact cause of the accidents in Japan and draw up new or tougher safety standards “particularly in terms of seismic safety and cooling.”

She said no new plants could be allowed until those experts report back. Their conclusions would apply not only to planned sites, but also existing plants. Switzerland now has five nuclear reactors that produce about 40% of the country’s energy needs.

Alarmed by the crisis in Japan, the European Union called for a meeting of nuclear safety authorities and operators to assess Europe’s readiness in case of an emergency.

Austria’s Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich called for an EU-wide stress test “to see if our nuclear power stations are earthquake proof.”

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