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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #835 - 6 December 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Switzerland: Referendum rejects quick exit from nuclear power

Swiss voters in a November 27 referendum rejected a proposal to impose time limits on the operation of the country's five power reactors.1,2,3 The proposal failed by a margin of 54:46. Forty-five percent of voters participated in the referendum.

If it had succeeded, the proposal would have imposed a 45-year lifespan limit on all reactors, leading to three closures next year and the closure of the other two reactors in 2024 and 2029.

Before Fukushima, plans were in train to build new reactors to replace the aging fleet. Applications for three new reactors were submitted to the government. The plan for new reactors was to be put to a referendum, possibly in 2012.

Days after Fukushima, the seven-person Swiss executive council (Federal Council) decided to ban the construction of new reactors. In June 2011, three months after Fukushima, the Swiss government approved a gradual phasing out of nuclear power (without specified dates for reactor closures) and reaffirmed the ban on new reactors. Despite all the twists and turns since then, that remains government policy.

The World Nuclear Association was crowing about the referendum defeat, saying that "the sensible Swiss have prioritised science and their extensive nuclear experience ahead of green energy dogma" and calling on Swiss policy-makers to remove the ban on new reactors.4

The World Nuclear Association asserted that the current fleet of reactors will "typically" operate for about 60 years "with most closing in the 2030s-2040s."5 But that is wishful thinking. Swiss utility BKW AG already plans to close the Muehleberg reactor in 2019, citing the high costs of maintenance and upgrades.6 The Beznau 1 reactor has been shut down for over one year due to concerns about its pressure vessel; the regulator is currently considering an application to restart the reactor.7 In August 2015, all five reactors were offline for two days due to problems with two reactors and routine maintenance at the other three.8

Worldwide, only 22 of the 164 shut-down power reactors operated for 40 years or more.9 All or nearly all of Switzerland's five reactors will likely be closed by the end of the 2020s ... the same outcome as that envisaged in the defeated referendum proposal.





Beznau I

365 MW



Beznau II

365 MW




373 MW




970 MW




1190 MW






4. World Nuclear Association, 28 Nov 2016, Press Release.






Progress moving from research reactors to cyclotrons for medical isotope production

A consortium of institutions led by TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science, has granted sole rights for its proprietary cyclotron-based technetium-99m (Tc-99m) production technology to ARTMS Products Inc. The license includes all the required products and procedures for the production of Tc-99m using common hospital-based and commercial cyclotrons, through the bombardment of a high-energy proton beam against specific chemical targets. 

Tc-99m is used in over 80% of all nuclear medicine imaging procedures (and diagnostic imaging accounts of over 90% of nuclear medicine with palliative and therapeutic procedures making up the remainder). Typically sourced from an aging global reactor fleet, Tc-99m has been subject to occasional supply disruptions over the past decade.

"The ARTMS production technology offers many advantages, and that is why we believe our technology is truly disruptive and that it will gain widespread adoption," said ARTMS CEO Dr. Paul Schaffer. "Not only does the ARTMS production technology provide regional supply security of Tc-99m, it also offers favourable economics, and aids to eliminate the need for highly-enriched uranium, which is currently used by nuclear reactors to produce this isotope."

Dr. Jonathan Bagger, Director of TRIUMF, said the agreement with ARTMS "marks the completion of a major milestone as we move to commercialize a decentralized, green, and Canadian-made, technology that can produce Tc-99m daily at hundreds of hospital-based cyclotrons around the world. This licensing agreement marks the beginning of a new era in Tc-99m production and supply security."