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Sweden’s Nuclear Power Ambitions Quashed

Sweden’s hope to build out its nuclear power capacity was quashed this week, with German utility Uniper SE saying it had no intention of throwing more money on nuclear power.

Uniper currently operates Sweden’s largest nuclear power reactor Oskarshamn-3, and has partial stakes in Ringhals and Forsmark. But Uniper isn’t interested in spending on additional nuclear power beyond its existing plants. It instead intends to focus on natural gas and renewables, according to Bloomberg, in line with its home country’s recent mothballing of its last remaining nuclear reactor.

The subject of nuclear power in Europe has been at the center of controversy. Germany—Europe’s largest economy—has made a point to back away from nuclear power, and has argued that it has no place in Europe’s green future. Other countries such as France, who rely heavily on nuclear power for power generation, argue that it is a clean power source and should be included in the bloc’s green goals.

The controversy—and Uniper’s decision to step away from additional nuclear power—comes as Europe struggles to walk a tightrope between energy security and the green transition. That tightrope was narrowed by Europe’s shunning of Russian natural gas—a product they previously relied on.

According to Uniper CEO Michael Lewis, the company’s nuclear reactors are  “a key part in making Uniper sustainable, both financially and environmentally. We intend to keep those plants.” But, Lewis said, they “will not invest in any further nuclear power.”

Sweden’s state-owned utility Vattenfall AB, which operate the Ringhals and Forsmark reactors, is looking into small modular reactors. Sweden, however, was hoping for larger, conventional plants.

In January, Sweden’s government proposed changes to its legislation that would allow the construction and operation of more nuclear reactors as it looked to shore up its energy security. Nuclear power provides about one-third of Sweden’s total electricity. In 2022, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson promised on the campaign trail that Sweden’s goal would shift from “100% renewable” to “100% fossil-free” power generation, which would be more difficult to achieve without nuclear power. 

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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