June 10, 2016 / 2:30 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sweden to cut taxes on nuclear power generation

* Capacity tax to be phased out over 2 years from 2017

* New reactors to be built to replace old ones (Adds Energy Minister comment, background)

STOCKHOLM, June 10 (Reuters) - Sweden said on Friday it would phase out some taxes on nuclear power and build new reactors to replace aging plants and secure energy supplies for decades to come.

Nuclear power providers in Sweden have said they would be forced to shut the country’s loss-making nuclear reactors unless a tax on nuclear capacity is abolished, risking a spike in electricity prices and energy shortages for industry.

“The aim is ... to make sure we can always guarantee electricity at competitive prices, in a stable and sustainable way, both in the short and long term,” Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan told reporters.

The tax, which brought in about 4 billion Swedish crowns ($488 million) in 2015, will be phased out over two years starting from 2017, but households will see their energy bills rise as Baylan said the government would increase taxes on energy users to make up for the nuclear tax. Heavy industry, however, would be excluded from the tax rise.

In a broad deal agreed with the main opposition parties, the government also said it would allow up to 10 new reactors to be built as the country closes its old plants, built in the 1970s and 80s.

The tax on capacity - which was increased last year - has hurt profitability at plants already under pressure from low market prices and the need for expensive upgrades to meet tougher safety standards since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall and Germany’s E.ON have said they will shut four of Sweden’s 10 nuclear reactors earlier than previously planned. One of them was shut last year.

In April, Vattenfall said all the remaining six reactors would have to close by 2020 if the capacity tax was not abolished.

Nuclear plants produced around 34 percent of Sweden’s electricity in 2015.

The deal to end the tax is a blow for the Green Party, which wants nuclear power phased out as soon as possible and instigated the increase in the tax last year. ($1 = 8.1964 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Johan Sennero; Editing by Simon Johnson and Susan Fenton)

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