It’s been a long time coming, but the Swedish government has finally given the green light to construction of new nuclear power plants. The Guardian reported a ministerial decision to present a law to that effect to the Swedish parliament in February 2009. It’s taken a while for the legislative process to run its course, but Der Spiegel now reports that the new law has been approved. The restrictions on nuclear power in Sweden and several other European countries have never made much sense. They exist as a result of the now familiar efforts by “Greens” to evoke a fantasy world in which they are the noble saviors of humanity against the forces of evil, represented in this case by radioactive doom. Think “China Syndrome.” In the process of “saving” them, their environmental “gift” to the people of Europe has been to insure that any number of dirty coal-fired power plants would stay on line spewing massive amounts of cancer causing particulates and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, while at the same time representing a substantially greater radioactive risk than nuclear plants of similar capacity.
It is unclear whether the new Swedish law will have concrete results. The situation there is similar in many respects to that in the United States where, in spite of the pro-nuclear stance of the Obama Administration, the ineptitude of government and the legal system and the short-sightedness of industry have combined to make the construction of new nuclear capacity prohibitively expensive. The “green light” also comes with many caveats. As Spiegel puts it,
The majority in favor was extremely thin, and came with any number of “whens” and “buts.” New reactors can only be built to replace one of the ten already in existence at the three Swedish nuclear plants at Ringhals, Oskarshamn, or Forsmark, and only then if one of them is taken off the net permanently. Government subsidies for private power companies are forbidden, and any approval of new construction will require demonstration of an increase in demand for electric power.
It is hardly a sure thing that new nuclear power plants will ever be built on Swedish soil. Demand is on the decline, and the Swedes are getting a good look at everything that can go wrong thanks to their neighbors, the Finns. The new Finnish reactor at Olkiluoto, western Europe’s first new construction project since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, is providing arguments for foes of nuclear power: a doubling of the original cost estimates, constant construction delays, and constant bickering between the government and the French consortium doing the work.