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Atel submits application for outline approval of new nuclear power plant Niederamt in Solothurn.

On 09 June 2008, Nuclear Power Plant Niederamt Ltd., a project company of Atel Holding Ltd (Atel), submitted the application for framework approval of a new nuclear power plant in Niederamt in Solothurn to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. Atel's aim with this project is to make an important contribution to long-term security of electricity supply in Switzerland. Atel is acting in step with the energy policy of the Federal Council, which also makes provision for the replacement of existing nuclear power plants and the construction of new plants in Switzerland. The people of Switzerland can have the final word on the application for framework approval.

Important step for Swiss electricity supply

Atel is willing to build a new nuclear power plant in Niederamt in the Canton of Solothurn between Olten and Aarau and to assume responsibility for an independent supply of electricity to Switzerland. Technically speaking, Niederamt is a very suitable location, in particular as regards the space requirements, grid connections and cooling requirements. 

Atel can also look back on decades of positive cooperation with the authorities and inhabitants of Niederamt. The last referendums have demonstrated that the people of the Canton of Solothurn show a positive attitude towards nuclear energy. On 30 October 2007, the Solothurn cantonal parliament requested the Solothurn Government Council to "promote the rapid construction of a nuclear power station in Niederamt".

The application for framework approval is subject to an optional referendum. New nuclear power plants can only be built if the people of Switzerland approve the construction project after considering all arguments. Atel's nuclear power plant project thus launches a broad-based public discussion on the importance of large-scale power stations for future energy supply in Switzerland.

The construction of a new nuclear power plant in Niederamt can only be done with a broad base of investors. Atel is therefore looking for additional partners for this project. It is currently talking to various interested parties, in particular also the operators of Swiss nuclear power plants. The negotiations regarding possible investments are not subject to any time pressure. Atel will therefore continue to develop the project for a new plant until the final partnership structure has been defined. After the planned merger, Atel and the electricity provider of western Switzerland EOS will supply approximately one-third of the Swiss population with electricity, mainly in north-western Switzerland, French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino.

This project represents an important contribution to the long-term security of supply in Switzerland. It is driven by the expected shortfall in power supply which will occur because electricity consumption is rising while supply will fall as older nuclear plants are decommissioned and the long-term import agreements start running out. Swiss politicians and citizens all expect the electricity sector to solve the shortfall in supply with investments, but this is an ambitious target. Domestic hydropower capacity can only be expanded to a limited extent. Electricity generation from fossil resources is considered as an interim solution by the Federal Council and is difficult in political terms. As all of Europe is suffering a shortfall in supply, not much electricity can be imported from abroad. In spite of enormous investments, the potential of the new renewable energies can only be exploited fully in the long term. We therefore have no choice in the medium term but to focus on nuclear energy. The Federal Council shares this opinion. According to its decision on energy policy of 21 February 2007, the Federal Council believes that "it is essential to replace existing nuclear power plants or to build new plants".

Nuclear energy meets all the energy supply criteria of the constitution. It guarantees security of supply and sustainability and is cost-effective. It is climate friendly and supplies cheap power. It is an established component of the Swiss electricity mix and is an ideal supplement to hydropower and the new renewable energies.

Note for the editorial offices:

You will receive additional information at a media conference scheduled for today, 10 June 2008, at 11h15 at the head office of Atel Holding Ltd, Bahnhofquai 12, Olten. No additional information and statements will be provided before the end of the media conference.