Swiss officials: Let's close all our nuclear plants

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Swiss Cabinet on Wednesday called for the decommissioning of the country's five nuclear power reactors and new energy sources to replace them.

The recommendation by the seven-member Federal Council will be debated in parliament, which is expected to make a final decision next month. If approved, the reactors would go offline between 2019 and 2034 after they reach their average lifespan of 50 years, unless their use could be safely extended for a few more years.

Switzerland has four nuclear power plants with a total of five reactors.

The country will keep the reactors running as long as they are safe, but gradually hopes to turn to entirely non-nuclear sources of power, Energy Minister Doris Leuthard and other Swiss energy officials said.

"We have to consider whether we want to live with this risk," Leuthard told a news conference. "Nuclear energy has become more expensive in recent years and the cost will only increase in the future."

Switzerland's nuclear plants generate about 40 percent of the country's energy. Hydropower supplies almost all the rest.

On Sunday, about 20,000 people took part in the biggest anti-nuclear protest in Switzerland in 25 years by people concerned about the continuing crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

"It's basically what we asked them to do," said Christian Zeyer of Swiss Cleantech, a sustainable economic association. "We're looking for an economy that is sustainable as a whole."

Zeyer said the nation can eventually turn to hydropower, wind energy, biomass and photovoltaics.

"We can get by just fine — not at the moment, not immediately — but as time goes on there will be enough opportunities to increase renewable energies," he said.