Nuclear power in Sweden: A question of jobs and the climate
Job growth and climate change trump safety concerns amongst most Swedes when it comes to the use of nuclear energy and apparently also the storage of nuclear waste.
The Swedish parliament may have (at least until recently) regularly voted to phase out nuclear power in Sweden, but the Swedish public is less steady in their feelings about atomic energy. A poll from 2008 by market research agency Synovate and newspaper Dagens Nyheter showed that 48% supported the construction of new nuclear power stations, with 39% against and 13% undecided. By contrast, only one political party (Folkpartiet or the Liberal Party) was pro new construction at the time of the poll – and they only captured 7.5% of the vote in the last general election in 2006.
Futhermore, according to Snyovate only 20% of Swedes wanted nuclear power to be phased out, while 80% prefer its continued use. This is a stark contrast to the largely anti-atomic energy feelings that swept Sweden in the 1980s.
Admittedly climate change, nuclear power and the economy are all hot issues in which opinion can change quickly and so these polls may not reflect current public opinions as accurately as they did two years ago. But several Swedish municipalities are even competing to be home to a new nuclear waste dump. Östhammar, a municipality around 100 km north of Stockholm, is one of the two finalists.
From a New York Times piece:
Sweden, which swore off nuclear power after less than 20 percent of Swedes approved of it in a referendum in the 1980s, would seem an unlikely place for such a competition. But it has reversed course recently and plans to begin building new nuclear reactors, adding to the 10 it already operates.
Fears of a climate change may indeed contribute to the pro-nuclear position in Sweden, but what about fears of nuclear accidents? Östhammar is already home to Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant, site of an incident in 2006 described by a former Forsmark boss as the ‘most dangerous’ nuclear incident since Chernobyl.
So maybe it’s just the economy, stupid. (I love when I get the opportunity to paraphrase that quote). Besides, it’s only right that they should store the waste that they themselves create instead of shipping it off elsewhere. Maybe most people in Sweden trust their government and large corporations enough to feel safe – even when they’re burying nuclear waste in their ‘backyards’.
by Graham Land
Swedish language sources: