Sweden has decided to close one of its eleven nuclear plants, Barsebaeck 2, at the end of 2003. The first unit at the site was shut down in 1999, the only reactor to have been taken out of service since the Swedish referendum in 1980 which resulted in a vote in favour of phasing out nuclear power.

Under a 1997 decision, Barsebaeck 2 can only be shut if doing so does not negatively affect either electricity prices or the environment. Parliament has decided that these conditions will be met in 2003. Around half of Sweden’s power comes from its nuclear plants.

In sharp contrast, the parliament of neighbouring Finland will vote soon on a government approved proposal to build a new nuclear power facility in the country amid increasing signs that the project has popular support, asa well as a majority in the Finnish cabinet. A Gallup Poll has revealed that 39.7 per cent of the population supports the project, with 32.7 per cent opposed and 27.6 per cent undecided. If passed, the law will remain in force for five years, during which time the plant developer must apply for a construction licence.

Finland already has two nuclear power installations, each with two reactors. Together they account for 30 per cent of electricity production.

A proposal for a new nuclear reactor was rejected in 1993 but the country is now trying to find ways of meeting its greenhouse gas emission targets. New nuclear capacity would help the process.