Nuclear Power in Sweden

Anthony Tsodikov
May 24, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Sweden nuclear power plants map. (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

The country of Sweden is known for their investment into nuclear energy. In Europe, Sweden is a leader in nuclear energy use, with nine nuclear power reactors (see Fig 1. for map) providing 40% of the country's electricity. Other European countries rely heavily on Sweden for exports of low-carbon electricity. Throughout the years, Sweden has been a vocal supporter of eco-friendly measures and has answered the call. Sweden's use of nuclear power has avoided over 2 billion tons of C02 emission since 1980. [1] Even with the nuclear program running very well, members of the Swedish government want to shut down the nuclear reactors. However, the closing of nuclear reactors would be devastating and would cause a huge energy crisis in Sweden.

Anti-Nuclear Swedish Government

The Swedish government has proposed many policies that aim to reduce nuclear energy use. In fact, a government with many anti-nuclear members decided to phase out nuclear power completely in 1980, but Parliament removed this policy in 2010. In addition, Sweden has a tax (introduced in the 1990s) that specifically discriminates against nuclear power. The tax is €0.0075/kWh and comprises one-third of the operating costs of nuclear power. Wind and biomass, on the other hand, are encouraged and thus subsidized by the Swedish government. The subsidy for wind and biomass amounts to three times the nuclear power tax. [1] As a result of this tax and record low prices of electricity, the nuclear reactors in Sweden are operating at a loss and will likely shut down way before their licenses expire. For example, Vattenfall, a publicly owned utility in Sweden that operates seven nuclear reactors, recently announced that it would shut down all of its reactors by 2020 if the government did not get rid of the nuclear tax. [2]

Impact of a Shutdown

In a recent paper, researcher Dr. Staffan Qvist at Uppsala University in Sweden discusses the environmental and health impacts of a policy that phases out nuclear power in Sweden. Specifically, he finds that forced shut down of the Swedish reactor fleet (which has remaining potential production of up to 2100 TWh ) would result in up to 2.1 Gt of additional CO2 emissions and approximately 60,000 energy-related-deaths.

© Anthony Tsodikov. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. Conca, "Sweden Better Not Close Its Nuclear Power Plants -- It Gets Really Cold There," Forbes, 17 Aug 15.

[2] "Vattenfall Puts Pressure on Swedish Government to Cut Nuclear Tax," Reuters, 28 Apr 16.

[3] S. A. Qvist and B. W. Brook, "Environmental and Health Impacts of a Policy to Phase Out Nuclear Power in Sweden," Energy Policy 84, 1 (2015).