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4. The Referendum

On March 28, 1979, the Three Mile Island accident at Harrisburg, U.S.A. occurred. The outcry in Sweden resulted in a sudden government acceptance of the old demand from the environmental movement for an advisory referendum on nuclear power. The Social Democrats, with their sights set on the September general election, changed their minds overnight, from not supporting to supporting the referendum. In spite of the referendum being postponed until March 23, 1980, the Social Democrats lost the election by a hair, and a new short-lived three-party coalition took over.

The referendum turned into yet another demonstration of political manipulation and lack of honesty. Voters were given three alternatives to choose between, each supported by one or two political parties represented in the Parliament, as summarized below. All three alternatives called for an eventual end to nuclear power, though the number of reactors and time frame differed. Line 3 was called the "quick stop" alternative, and lines 1 and 2 were called "slow stop" choices.

Doubling the number of nuclear reactors and an eightfold increase in the operating time was unashamedly described as "decommissioning" and named line 1; and line 2, being a minor variation of line 1, was named "decommissioning with common sense". Even the Conservatives, who didn't want to decommission at all, called line 1 decommissioning.

In the beginning there were two choices: a "slow stop" and a "quick stop". As the voting date drew nearer, public opinion clearly favoured the "quick stop" choice. To split the vote, the Social Democrats added a second "slow stop" choice. All over the world, people found it hard to understand why three alternatives were needed in a referendum. After all, the basic thought behind any referendum is to vote yes or no.

Summary Of The Alternatives For The March 1980 Referendum On Nuclear Power, And Results Of The Vote

Line 1 (18.9%): (supported by the Conservative Party) the six reactors under construction may be completed, bringing the total to a maximum of 12; and all the reactors should be closed down at the speed possible considering the need for electrical power to maintain full employment and welfare.

Line 2 (39.1%): (supported by the Social Democratic and Liberal Parties) same as line 1 with the requirements that: "important nuclear power plants" should be owned by the Government or the local municipalities ("kommuner"); and that measures should be taken to guide the consumption of electricity, including prevention of direct electrical heating in new permanent buildings.

Line 3 (38.7%): (supported by the Center and Communist Parties) no more nuclear power plants should be brought into operation and the six operating plants should be phased out in ten years.

Of all eligible voters, 75.7% voted, which is low in Sweden; and there were 3.3% blanks. Based on the outcome, the Parliament decided in 1980 to limit the total number of reactors to 12 and to abandon nuclear power by the year 2010 (22). It is estimated that by that year the 12 reactors will have produced 7,800 tonnes of spent fuel (23).

The high number of votes given to lines 2 and 3, should have also resulted in Parliament taking action to limit direct electrical heating in new buildings. However, even though the Social Democratic party has been in power most of the time since 1980, direct electrical heating in new homes has increased greatly, and has been a major factor in the large increase in electricity consumption. Further, to date, no practical steps have been taken to modify the Swedish energy system in preparation for closing the reactors down.

It is not well known that the waste issue was manipulated in the referendum. In preparation for the referendum, the Government made a decision to the effect that if line 1 and 2 together defeated line 3, it would mean that the demands of the Stipulation Act concerning a totally safe final storage of nuclear waste were satisfied by the KBS-1 method (24). According to this decision, it didn't matter at all whether the KBS-1 method was satisfactory or not. The important thing was to beat line 3 in the referendum. Only when this had been done, would everybody assume that the Stipulation Act had been fulfilled, and that the waste issue had been solved "in a completely safe way".

Please take careful notice of the mental disarray! First, one Government decided that the KBS-1 method satisfies the demands of the Stipulation Act in spite of:

Next, the following Government left the whole issue to be decided in a referendum dealing with completely different issues!

If line 3 had won, about one tenth the quantity of waste would have been produced, but the waste problem would be worse. This is because the waste problem would no longer be perceived as solved, even though the quantity of waste would be less than if the problem was solved. This is nuclear logic!

The absurdities are piled on top of each other in the KBS affair. It is not acceptable to ignore the truth by resorting to Governmental decisions or by using referenda. Such a mentality belongs to the dark Middle Ages, when people could decide that the Earth was flat. The approval of KBS-1 is preposterous.

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