Switzerland's Muehleberg nuclear plant to shut in 2019

ZURICH Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:37am EDT

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ZURICH Oct 30 (Reuters) - Swiss power company BKW said it will shut down its Muehleberg nuclear plant in 2019, citing prohibitively high costs necessary to keep the 41-year-old site running.

Nuclear energy has come under increased public scrutiny around the world after Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.

In Switzerland, which gets about 40 percent of its power from nuclear, the government has scrapped plans to build new nuclear reactors but has stopped short of shutting existing ones early.

"Investing in the plant's long-term operation would have entailed high costs, the amortisation of which would have been too uncertain given the prevailing economic, regulatory and political conditions," BKW said in a statement about shutting Muehleberg.

Across Europe, views are mixed on nuclear power. While Germany is phasing out atomic power, France's EDF recently signed a deal clearing the way for a new plant in Britain, the first approved in Europe since Fukushima.

Italy scrapped a planned nuclear programme and France has pledged to cut atomic power to 50 percent of its electricity mix from 75 percent currently.

BKW said it will invest roughly 200 million Swiss francs ($222.67 million) to maintain and upgrade Muehleberg over the next six years, including measures to improve the cooling water supply and the cooling system for the fuel element storage pool.

Switzerland's nuclear safety authority ENSI said on Wednesday it expected BKW to submit specific plans for the shutdown and its safety through 2019.

Muehleberg's closure follows heated debate in Switzerland over the plant's fate. BKW had sought improvements required by the Swiss regulator following a court battle to shut it down over safety concerns.

Conservation group WWF on Wednesday renewed calls for Muehleberg to be shut down immediately.

($1 = 0.6228 British pounds)

($1 = 0.8982 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Katharina Bart and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt; editing by Jason Neely)

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