Lower confidence in Swedish nuclear power industry, survey says

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Stockholm - Confidence in the Swedish nuclear power industry has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years in the wake of a reactor shutdown in 2006, a report said Wednesday. The autumn 2007 survey by Gothenburg University researchers suggested 39 per cent had "very great or rather great" confidence in information about energy and nuclear power issues issued by the nuclear power industry, down 10 percentage points on 2006.

"We have to go back to 1986, shortly after the Chernobyl accident (in Ukraine) to find similar poor ratings," Soren Holmberg, political science professor who has gauged nuclear opinion since the 1970s, told Swedish radio news.

The researchers attributed the dent in the confidence level to the shutdown of one of the three reactors in July 2006 triggered by a short circuit in a switchyard outside the Forsmark plant, and reports of a deteriorating security culture.

Goran Lundgren, head of Nordic electricity generation at state- controlled energy group Vattenfall - the majority owner of the Forsmark facility - said the results were not surprising.

Lundgren said it would likely take time to change the "general public's perception" but said industry had introduced measures to improve security.

Environmental organizations scored a 64-per-cent confidence rating as a source for information about energy and nuclear power issues, the same as in recent years.

The survey was conducted in the autumn among 6,000 people.

However, 49 per cent of those polled wanted to keep nuclear power as a long-term energy source, 31 per cent wanted to decommission the nuclear reactors as soon as possible, while 20 per cent were undecided.

Sweden once had 12 nuclear reactors in operation, but two reactors at the Barseback plant in southern Sweden have been decommissioned, most recently in May 2005.

A 1980 referendum decided Sweden would phase out nuclear power, which accounts for about half of the country's electricity.

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