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Switzerland decides to phase out nuclear energy

In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, the Swiss government on Wednesday decided to drop plans to build new nuclear reactors and to phase out the use of nuclear energy in the country, planning instead to pursue alternative energy sources. Meanwhile, other European countries worked on developing new stress tests for the existing 143 nuclear reactors in the region.

Switzerland generates about 40 percent of its energy from its five nuclear reactors. Switzerland is the second country in Europe, after Germany, to make the decision to phase out nuclear energy in response to the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai ichi plant after an earthquake and a tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan on March 11, according to the Wall Street Journal. Approval for three new reactors had been put on hold after the Fukushima accident, and that decision was made permanent Wednesday after a large anti-nuclear rally in Switzerland, the New York Times reported.

In a statement, the Cabinet said it was responding to the desires of the Swiss people to reduce risks “in the face of the severe damage that the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima caused.”

Switzerland's five nuclear plants will continue operating but will not be replaced. The last one is expected to go offline in 2034, the New York Times added.

Meanwhile, the 27-nation European Union agreed that stress tests for nuclear facilities throughout the region will include man-made and natural disasters. The E.U. energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, said the tests would be stringent, according to the Times.

“The quality and the depth of this stress test is such as to fulfill the requirements of the European citizen to live in a safe environment,” Mr. Oettinger said. “All of this will be done in as transparent way as possible.”

The scenarios have caused disagreement among the member nations, with France and the United Kingdom resisting testing using terrorist scenarios, Science reported. The tests, which are voluntary, are expected to begin on June 1.