Sweden starts shutting down nuke plants, despite some reservations

At midnight last night, technicians at Sweden’s Barseback-2 nuclear reactor hit the off button (or something), shutting down the country’s oldest nuclear power plant for good. Vattenfall, the state-owned company that operated the facility, will now funnel $1 billion toward building northern Europe’s biggest wind farm. The country’s 10 remaining nuke facilities will be shut down in a few years. Is this some green’s fevered fantasy? Nope — it’s real, and it’s more complicated than it sounds. In a 1980 referendum, Swedes voted to phase out nuclear power in favor of renewables like wind and solar. That sounds peachy and all, but surveys show that some 80 percent are having second thoughts. Why? Well, it starts with “global” and ends with “warming.” Clean energy won’t be able to immediately fill the gap — 40 percent of the country’s power now comes from nuclear — and some Swedes are worried that they’ll end up importing energy from coal and gas plants elsewhere in Europe, thus generating more greenhouse gases. Quite a conundrum, bork bork bork!