On Tuesday, 20th June, the Swedish parliament embraced a new energy objective, endorsing the administration's intentions to construct new nuclear power plants. This decision marks a significant shift in a nation that decided four decades ago to gradually eliminate atomic energy.
Adjusting the goal to "100% fossil-free" electricity from "100% renewable" forms the cornerstone of the government's strategy to address an anticipated twofold increase in electricity consumption to about 300 TWh by 2040 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson stated in parliament that this adjustment lays the groundwork for nuclear power, emphasizing the necessity for increased, clean electricity production and a reliable energy system.
Fossil-free instead of renewable
In 2016, Sweden's parties reached an agreement allowing new reactors to be erected at existing locations. However, in the absence of subsidies, this venture was considered excessively costly. The newly formed right-leaning coalition asserts that new reactors are vital for transitioning to a fossil-free economy and has pledged substantial loan guarantees. Currently, approximately 98% of Sweden's electricity is derived from hydropower, nuclear power, and wind.
Vattenfall, the state-owned utility company, is contemplating the construction of at least two small modular reactors and the extension of the operational life of the country's existing reactors.
However, critics argue that nuclear power is costly, time-consuming to build, and presents safety risks. The emphasis on nuclear power forms part of a broader modification in environmental policy in a nation that has consistently branded itself as an eco-friendly leader.
The coalition also intends to reduce the bio-fuel blend in petrol and diesel, a move which could potentially increase CO2 emissions and risk Sweden falling short of its 2030 emission targets. Sweden's proposition to allow nations to extend subsidies for standby coal power plants has also stirred concerns within the European Union, while the Swedish government has pushed the EU to dilute a significant law designed to restore degrading natural habitats.
Domestically, the proposed simplification of environmental permits could expedite the expansion of wind power and enable the mining of substantial deposits of rare earth elements, crucial for electric motor production.