Axpo is a leading player in the Swiss energy market. It was founded in March 2001 as an umbrella organisation for the activities of Nordostschweizerischen Kraftwerke (NOK) and other Swiss generating companies and to coordinate sales and trade in electricity. It supplies energy and energy-related services to around three million people and thousands of industrial and commercial enterprises in North-Eastern and Central Switzerland. The group is also expanding its presence in European energy markets.
Axpo is wholly owned by the cantons of North-Eastern Switzerland. At Axpo Group, electricity products, transport grids, trading, sales and services are all grouped together under a joint holding company. Axpo Group comprises three subsidiaries Nordostschweizerischen Kraftwerke AG (NOK), Centralschweizerische Kraftwerke AG (CKW) and Elektrizitats-Gesellschaft Laufenburg AG (EGL).
NOK, CKW and EGL provide electricity directly to numerous output distributors in their own franchise areas. These cantonal electricity utilities sell direct to customers and supply power to more than 400 independent regional and communal output distributors (city and municipal utilities, cooperatives, pools).
Axpo published a report entitled 'Energy Prospects 2020' in May 2005. This study predicted a huge electricity shortage in Switzerland over the next two decades. The Company says the solution is greater diversification into renewable energy, hydro-electric power as well as gas and nuclear power. The report says there must be a clear commitment to nuclear energy to supply baseload electricity reliably.
However, Axpo CEO, Heinz Karrer, stressed in May 2005, that building new nuclear plants was "not a priority" and said no decisions had yet been made regarding timing, cost, location or overall feasibility. He said a decision to proceed with a feasibility study could be taken around 2008, and that the complete planning process "including approval and construction" could take as long as 20 years. He added: "The question of public acceptance of a new nuclear plant is a critical factor, and the long time horizon poses a risk that should not be underestimated from a business planning perspective."
Swiss Green NGOs dismissed allegations that Switzerland was facing a power shortage unless electricity output was increased. The groups said that renewable energy could compensate for the loss of nuclear electricity as existing plants reach the end of their life.
Switzerland has 5 nuclear reactors generating 40% of its electricity. Three of these are owned by the Axpo group. Beznau-1 (opened in 1969) and Beznau-2 (opened in 1971) - both 365MW Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs) are owned by subsidiary Nordostschweizerischen Kraftwerke AG.
Leibstadt, a 1,165MW Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) opened in 1984, is owned by a consortium of utilities which are part of the Axpo Group.
Outside of the Axpo group, Mahleberg - a 355 MW BWR opened in 1971 is owned by Bernische Kraftwerke AG (BKW), and Goesgen - a 970MW PWR opened in 1979 - is owned by another consortium of utilities.
A ten-year moratorium on new plant construction was supported by 54.6% of the electorate in a national referendum in 1990. But in a 2003 referendum voters rejected proposals to phase-out nuclear power by 2014. In 2006 it was reported that ATEL, which holds 40% interest in the Gösgen plant and 27.4% in Liebstadt, was looking for partners to build a new reactor. Axpo has been studying sites for a new nuclear power plant. The Swiss government has announced that the existing five nuclear power reactors should be replaced in due course.
Radioactive Waste Management
Switzerland's policy is to reprocess spent fuel and utilise the separated plutonium in Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel. Reprocessing is undertaken by Areva, at La Hague in France and by BNFL at Sellafield in UK under contract to individual power plant operators. Most spent fuel is transported by rail (and ship to the UK). Switzerland remains responsible for the separated high-level wastes.
Beznau has been receiving MoX fuel from the Sellafield MoX plant.
- Axpo website.
- AXPO Holding AG 2004/2005 Annual Report
- [http://www.swisspolitics.org/en/news/index.php?page=dossier_artikel&story_id=5814495&dossier_id=37 Power giant warns of coming energy "crunch", Swiss Info, May 24, 2005.
- Greens slam plans for new nuclear plants, Swiss info, November 9, 2004.
- Switzerland, No nukes info source, December 30, 2005, accessed March 2007
- Nuclear Power in Switzerland World Nuclear Association Information Paper, February 2007.
- Controversial security and safety planning for latest Sellafield MOX shipment, CORE Briefing 03/06, November 22, 2006. Security concerns about Sellafield's Bank Holiday plutonium shipment through Workington, CORE Press Release, June 3, 2005.