Nuclear Power in Sweden

landscape nuclear

writer icon Wilma Johansson     ISB   |   Sustainability     🕐 13. May. 2019

In a recent opinion piece in Swedish DI, arguments were made that Sweden could be a fossil-free powerhouse, so to speak, if it chooses to go down the nuclear path.

Replacing fossil fuels with nuclear power is not a new concept per se, but the reasoning presented just might be.

PM Nilsson presents determinants to electricity pricing development in Sweden, as continuously driving factors to why nuclear power is perceived as a non-viable option when it comes to the country going fossil-free.

According to the author, one important factor to the current pricing model in Sweden is “that solar, wind, and bio-fuel is subsidised by the so called electricity-certificate system.”

In practice this means that the market is influenced to benefit renewable energy to a degree unlike that of other sources, such as nuclear.

The arguments
Subsidising certain methods, rather than a more neutral stance to how electricity is generated, means that irrespective of safety risks, market value concerns likely outweigh any benefits of nuclear over renewable energy.

Using Germany’s energy system as an example, Nilsson's reasoning also garners strength in that renewable energy is costly, and as a direct consequence 80 percent of energy in the country is still coming from fossil fuels.

While countries like Sweden would greatly benefit from continuing to stay away from fossil fuels, they still need additional market security in terms of generating enough total energy for consumption at any one time.

There needs to be a shift away from keeping a market that is geared towards nuclear dismantling, Nilsson maintains.

The very real dangers of radiation from nuclear power, as made evident by the nuclear disasters in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986, and more recently Fukushima, Japan in 2011, serve as poignant reminders of there being no such thing as 'safe' when it comes to nuclear.

Nilsson makes a convincing argument if one looks at the energy market, and that alone. However, the reasons behind how and why nuclear power is being dismantled often take other things into consideration.

A fossil-free future Sweden
According to Nilsson, nuclear proves a viable alternative on the Swedish energy market to fossil fuel.

However, while the arguments presented paint a clear picture of why market concerns can and should be taken into consideration, they fail to dispel concerns regarding nuclear pollution.

Whereas market determinants should not go ignored, an argument can also be made that nor should they  be sole driving factors in discussions on how to reduce, or move away from, fossil fuels in their entirety.

Keeping claims that to combat the current climate crisis "a big part of the [fossil free energy] solution has to be nuclear power" in mind, the link between market value and radiation risks may not be as important as finding a viable and quick solution. 

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