• Sweden's news in English

Japan blasts reignite Swedish nuke debate

TT/AFP/The Local · 15 Mar 2011, 16:49

Published: 15 Mar 2011 16:49 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

While European energy ministers gather in Brussels for a crisis meeting, the Swedish Anti-Nuclear Movement (Folkkampanjen mot kärnkraft) is planning demonstrations for Wednesday evening.

The organisation's head, Göran Bryntse, is currently in Brussels to attend Tuesday's energy ministers' meeting on Tuesday.

According to Bryntse, the recent events in Japan have triggered concern among Swedes regarding nuclear energy.

“They have realised that it is highly dangerous. We have more people phoning in to find out more about our campaign and how to get involved,” he told The Local.

The organisation was started in 1979 to organise the opposition to nuclear power for the 1980 referendum in Sweden.

While the group didn’t win the referendum, more than third of voters said no to nuclear power at the time.

But in recent years the Swedish public has been more favourable toward nuclear energy.

Survey data from last year from the SOM Institute at Gothenburg University revealed that 51 percent of Swedes were in favour of nuclear energy with only 31 percent against.

According to Bryntse the Swedish public has been lulled into a false security by the silence regarding the dangers of nuclear energy.

“No one has been interested to print our side of the story. In Germany, where the press show both sides of the argument, 80 percent of the population is against nuclear energy, but here in Sweden we have been turned away by all major media,” he said.

The current crisis in Japan will almost certainly change that, according to Bryntse.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) has also noted an increase in calls and traffic to their website since the accidents in Japan, according to news agency TT.

Personnel are working around the clock to keep updated about the situation and answer questions from the public.

Speaking on Tuesday during a visit to Lithuania, Swedish Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he expects an important discussion regarding the safety of nuclear power in the wake of the widening crisis in Japan.

However, he gave no indication that the government was ready to shift its current policy.

“We are all aware of the risks with nuclear power. But we must also remember that all energy production will have an impact on the environment and an effect on public opinion and this must be taken into consideration,” he said to TT.

Reinfeldt added lessons from Japan should instead help boost nuclear security worldwide, including in Sweden, which has 10 reactors.

Reinfeldt also stressed that fossil fuels are a "driving force behind climate change", according to AFP.

"So to say that just to shift over to fossil fuel is a better solution -- I would argue against, because there you will have more of the climate effects," he added, underscoring the need to focus on alternative energy.

According to Sören Holmberg, professor of political science and director of Swedish National Election Studies at the Gothenburg University, accidents such as the one in Japan often have political consequences, although they may be short-lived.

“We had a referendum here in Sweden after the Harrisburg incident, so there are political decisions reached after these kinds of accidents,” Holmberg said to TT.

The accident at Three Mile Island in Harrisburg, USA, occurred in March 1979. The Swedish referendum took place a year later, in 1980.

Story continues below…

The overall outcome was a plan to phase out nuclear energy in Sweden over time. But in June 2010, the year that the phasing out was to be complete, the Riksdag decided to open up for the possibility of building new nuclear power stations in Sweden.

The accident in Japan may well be the catalyst for a new start to the discussion.

On Tuesday, the Green Party called for a new debate in the Riksdag regarding the dangers and the future of Swedish nuclear energy production.

"Now, when a modern, high tech society, well-informed of the risks with nuclear energy production, has been hit by such a disaster, we need to have a new discussion and ask ourselves if we should reevaluate the decision to back nuclear energy," Green Party spokesperson Peter Eriksson said in a statement.

According to Bryntse, it's high time that the Swedish public takes a new interest in the campaign against nuclear power.

“There are places in Sweden where a similar accident could cause a blast equal to 15,000 Nagasakis,” he said.

TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

19:06 March 15, 2011 by Gabin
First pray and help Japan.

Where can we trust any politicians...

The seismic risk is a higher danger.
19:12 March 15, 2011 by Youdee
Why are media channels so focused on the nuclear bit and not on other issues related to this catastrophe? Where's the human interest? Reports on nations that are helping out?
19:28 March 15, 2011 by calebian22
Way to go politicians! Don't let facts interfere with an opportunity to prey on fear and ignorance. Sweden is not part of the Ring of Fire. Using seismic activity as a reason to roadblock nuclear power in Sweden, is not relevant.
19:40 March 15, 2011 by mikewhite
Except the failure modes being witnessed should be taken into account for new builds and refurbishments.
19:50 March 15, 2011 by mojofat
From "Earthquake activity in Sweden Study in connection with a proposed nuclear waste repository in Forsmark or Oskarshamn" February 2006

"This data suggests that we should expect at least one magnitude 5 earthquake in our region every century and one magnitude 6 earthquake every one thousand years"


There is no comparing Japan to Sweden. They are so completely different in every way. Sweden should build more nuclear plants and invest R&D dollars in designing the next generation reactors, which could be safer and more efficient.
20:19 March 15, 2011 by Twiceshy2
The nuclear reactors that are having problem are very old designs.

I don't know when the Swedish reactors were design, but there are new types of reactors like Pebble Bed Reactors (PBR) which are extremely safe.

In Germany they even did tests with PBRs where they left them completely unattended without any control rods, and as expected they naturally dropped to a safe state.
21:10 March 15, 2011 by conboy
In Sweden it is a well konwon fact "internationally" that Swedish nuclear industry authority experts never ever buy in cheap components, practice poor maintenance standards or take bribes from international contracts - everything is fine why the furore?
21:37 March 15, 2011 by Mxzf
I would just like to link a very good detailing on what happened the first days. It's now hosted by MIT: http://mitnse.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors/
21:57 March 15, 2011 by eZee.se
With our dependence on newer, power hungrier gadgets we require more energy.

With population growth we require more energy.

Where is it going to come from?

Solar? I wish. But its always "just 5-10 years away".

Cold fusion? = hahaha.

I am scared of nuclear just like any sane person but there really is no way we are not going to get into it sooner rather than later. Till it goes belly up it really is the cleanest solution compared to fossil.

Everything has a price - and some of us will pay for this one.
22:18 March 15, 2011 by eppie
All new reactor designs are safe, untill something happens.

And saying that we are not in an area of seismic activity doesn't make sense. If something will happen to a plant in Sweden it is because of another cause we didn't think about before.

Do you really think all the Japanese are stupid that they build that kind of reactor on that place? No thye were just overconfident by the mantra that nothing will ever happen.

And now in Europe the stock exchange has lost an amount of money in one day because of the japanese nuclear scare that if invested in solar or wind energy could double the amount of green energy we produce. But lets just keep repeating that nuclear is cheaper.
22:24 March 15, 2011 by blursd
You people do realize the earthquake itself didn't do any damage to the nuclear facilities in Japan ... it was the 40 foot wall of water that came afterwards.

If they hadn't been hit by a tsunami those nuclear facilities would be just fine ...
22:29 March 15, 2011 by apelsin000

actually not, the cooling system was destroyed by the earthquake, the tsunami made it even worse. But for Sweden, i think nuclear power should be fine and one of the best choice.
22:36 March 15, 2011 by Mxzf
According to what I linked above, the problem was actually that the tsunami killed the diesel generators needed for cooling the powered down core (it keeps generating heat for a few days). The second problem was that the new generators didn't have the right plug... the earthquake/shaking was no problem for the reactors. The explosions were venting of pressure, that unfortunately contained hydrogen/oxygen mix = boom (but no dangerous radiation, short half life nitrogen etc).

Now the problem seems to have been that a sensor didn't work, so at least one reactor ran dry = meltdown. The meltdown will most probably be contained (no china syndrome or chernobyl), but it will brick the reactor.
22:39 March 15, 2011 by Essjay
Would I like to survive without Nuclear power...no problem

Rather live in the Ice Age than a planet that has been exposed to terrible radiation exposure , maybe for hundreds of years .

But then if you are the the sort of person who has 100% confidence in your Government who are !00% honest and those in the Nuclear industry who are also 100% honest then you can laugh your heads off about people like me !!!
22:53 March 15, 2011 by engagebrain
and leave a mess for our childrens' childrens' childrens'.........children to clean up.

and thats when nuclear power works properly.
23:16 March 15, 2011 by Zala Russe
How astonishing! A serious article about the consequences of the Japanese nuclear powered Armageddon in the context of Swedish Nuclear Power policy ...

Illustrated with a cast line-up from 'Drop the Dead Donkey'


a popular Brit TV soap/ comedy TV about rogue media news-gathering / distortion, spoof prog, which broadcast it's last episode in 1998.
23:19 March 15, 2011 by apelsin000

Thank you for the link! I read from another version of the story was that, unluckily, the diesel generators were located in a low land which was previously protected by a water-proof wall. After the earthquake, the water-proof wall was cracked, so the sea water got in. The generators were started, but stopped even before the tsunami arrived. Anyway, let's wait for the final report before coming to a conclusion.
00:03 March 16, 2011 by Swedesmith
Nuclear power is great until there is a problem....then it can get real snarfy. Unfortunately it is our best option at present. I would like to see more money spent on researching alternative and safe energy sources so that, in the future, we could not rely on dangerous or polluting fuel.
00:59 March 16, 2011 by Twiceshy2
> All new reactor designs are safe, untill something happens.

Everything has risks. Most people don't think twice about driving, even though it's much riskier than living near a power plant.
06:45 March 16, 2011 by eppie

Yes of course but you always have to use the calculation:

Chance of something going wrong x scale of the disaster if something goes wrong.

It is clear that there is much more chance that something goes wrong in the oil industry (transport, refinnery etc) but the disaster can't be compared to a full scale nuclear disaster.

Anothe scary thing that the people in a country of which we all say they are so technologically advanced and have a good work mentality don't seem to manage to do something to help end the dangerous situation.
08:00 March 16, 2011 by technoviking
A recent study puts the long term death toll from Chernobyl at 985,000.

That's not an accident, it's a holocaust even if it's off 50%.


People screw up. Calculations go wrong. Read the Black Swan. It's practically inevitable.

We should limit how much damage we cause when there are screw ups because given a bit of time, they ALWAYS happen.

Worst case scenario here, large swaths of Japan could become practically uninhabitable if all the reactors fully blow.
10:18 March 16, 2011 by blursd
@ Apelsin000

Actually no ... it was the tsunami that caused the meltdown and subsequent radiation leaks.

The nuclear plant was designed to withstand a 7.0 earthquake ... the one that actually hit was much stronger than that, but that wasn't actually the problem. The reactors themselves were designed to shut down in the event of a significant earthquake, and that is exactly what they did. The problem is they continue to produce heat for several days after being shut down, and require an external generator to power the cooling pumps that keep the reactors in safe conditions. The generators in question had a 30 foot tsunami barrier to protect them from damage.

The real problem is (even if the barrier cracked ... as you claim it did) the barrier was still about 10 to 15 feet too low to stop the tsunami that did hit the coast. So, arguing the earthquake cracked the barrier is completely irrelevant -- even if it were intact it still would not have stopped the 40-45 foot tsunami that hit.

If there had been no tsunami the nuclear plant workers could have safely powered down the reactors, and fixed any damage that might have resulted as a consequence of the earthquake itself.

This is evidenced by the dramatic difference in damage between the cities and nuclear facilities in Japan subjected to the earthquake and tsunami, and those that were only subjected to the earthquake. Tokyo, for example, received a large part of the earthquake's force, but damage and the resulting human impact was astonishingly low. In addition, nuclear reactors further away from the north east coast, but that still received the equivalent of a 7.0 earthquake but no subsequent tsunami, are not experiencing anything even remotely resembling a meltdown situation. In fact, they are operating normally.

The nuclear problems in Sendai were not caused by the earthquake itself, but by the tsunami it created. If there had been no tsunami there would have been no meltdown.
18:48 March 16, 2011 by mojofat

Solar energy in a region of the world that has 6 months of little sunlight? Doesn't seem realistic to me. Wind turbines have well-documented environmental issues as well (although arguably, not as bad as coal or nuclear)...but the main problem is you practically need to cover every square inch of ground to generate enough power.

Also, I saw other comments alluding to it not being the earthquake but the tsunami causing the bulk of the damage; well, they're one in the same. You don't have a tsunami without an earthquake. It's like saying it wasn't the earthquake that cause the damage but the aftershocks.

Point being, Sweden is perfectly positioned to offer a stable environment to utilize this very efficient energy source. It's also well-positioned to store the waste, again because of its low seismic activity. Hopefully people don't have a knee jerk reaction and decide to ban all nuclear power. Although I am in favor of ultimately converting to renewable sources, the challenge is we need the time to get there and convert. It doesn't happen over night, or even in the span of a few years.
12:01 March 17, 2011 by Raiha
@ Mojofat Just for your edification: Tsunami's are created by forces that cause a large displacement of the ocean, forces such as earthquakes yes, as well as meteors, and even, thousands of years ago, the tip breaking off of a mountain.
09:30 March 30, 2011 by Wills
Although I agree with James Lovelock's view that we have little option other than to invest in nuclear power, I thought the following article by J. Doyne Farmer was one of the most sensible expositions on nuclear power and risk that I've read.

Thought I'd share. He's the second to last contributor.

J. Doyne Farmer
Today's headlines
Swedish photographer shot near Mosul
Hansen was being operated on in the Iraqi city of Erbil on Sunday. Photo: Nora Lorek/ TT

Paul Hansen, a photographer working for Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, has sustained light injuries after being hit by what appears to be a sniper while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

Trollhättan remembers school attack victims
'It was an attack on all of Sweden,' Education Minister Gustav Fridolin said. Photo: Thomas Johansson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday turned out for a torchlight procession in the small town of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden to honour the victims of last year’s deadly school attack there.

Sweden wants emission-free cars in EU by 2030
Photo: Jessica Gow/ TT

Sweden's environment minister on Saturday urged the European Union to ban petrol and diesel-powered vehicles from 2030.

Hundreds protest Swedish asylum laws
Around 1,000 people protested in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers.

Dylan removes Nobel-mention from website
The American musician has more or less responded to the news with silence. Photo: Per Wahlberg

American singer-song writer Bob Dylan has removed any mention of him being named one of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates on his official website.

Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available