Until recently, nuclear power provided about 40% of that country’s electricity, similar to hydro. Fossil fuels only generated about 1% of Sweden’s electricity. For almost ten years, Sweden has been a net exporter of low-carbon electricity to other parts of Europe. Sweden is farther along in its commercial nuclear waste disposal program than most countries and is building two deep geologic nuclear waste repositories at Forsmark.
So, with their nuclear reactors only about half-way through their life-spans, and the whole program running really well, who in Sweden would want to completely shut them down? Um…members of the Swedish coalition-government, led by Sweden’s Green Party, people who get a Pavlovian gag reflex just thinking of nuclear. They want to prematurely close their entire nuclear fleet, and replace the 2 trillion kWhs with renewables and natural gas.
Their almost complete lack of the technical, environmental and operational knowledge of each of these energy sources might be understandable if it weren’t Sweden. This country has an extremely good grasp of all these issues, so it must be willful ignorance, for which we should be less forgiving. An early phase-out of nuclear would add over 2 billion tons of CO2 emissions, cause the loss of $120 billion in taxes and undermine their grid reliability in an area of the world that gets really cold.
After the retirement of the Ringhals 1 and 2 reactors, a normal Swedish winter has unraveled the country’s grid. The southern part Sweden, was forced to import electricity in February corresponding to the production from Ringhals 1 and 2 reactors mostly from coal-fired power plants in Poland, Denmark and Germany. If the temperatures would have been as low in Germany and Poland as in Sweden, many people would have froozen to death. This happend in Texas mainly due to the collapse of wind generated electricty genertation, see: Total Wind & Solar Power Collapses Responsible For Texan Blackouts – 30 people froze to death – Energy Education for more information.
The installation of a large fraction of intermittent sources like wind and solar requires a correspondingly expanded backup capacity of gas turbines since during cold winters the wind generated electricity is only 3-5% of installed capacity.
According to the Swedish grid operator Svenska Kraftnät, the Swedish Energy Agency Energimyndigheten and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, there is no room for expansion of the current capacity of Swedish hydropower, and if the current hydropower system is used to back-up, or load-follow, wind power variability, it would have devastating effects on the local environment.