Use of resources in nuclear power plants and nuclear waste


Overview of the sustainability of nuclear power plants in Switzerland

While it is a well-known fact that nuclear energy is climate-friendly and no more or less environmentally friendly than new renewable energies, it differs significantly from renewable energies simply because of radioactive waste. However, it is important to note that the amount of the most active form, the high-level waste, is very small compared to the high amount of electricity generated.

The relationship between nuclear power generation and sustainability can be most clearly differentiated and best understood by looking at the three main stages of nuclear power generation: the provision of the fuel and related resources, the actual operation of the power plant, and the disposal of spent fuel and waste. Alpiqʼs realisation of these phases will be examined in more detail below.

“Front end” of nuclear energy production

The fuel required to generate nuclear energy in a nuclear power plant comes from the element uranium, which occurs in ores and is mined. Since the onset of increased instability and armed conflicts in the past few years, KKG has focused its new procurement contracts exclusively on suppliers in the uranium-rich countries Canada and Australia, as these have stable, democratic forms of government and can be considered reliable partners in terms of compliance with the demanding criteria (both countries rated “basic” in “Childrenʼs Rights in the Workplace Index”), and the supplying companies there can be audited transparently and effectively.

Operation of nuclear power plants

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI), which is the Swiss oversight authority responsible for Swiss nuclear power plants, assessed KKG and KKL to be safe facilities. In 2021 and 2022, all radiation protection thresholds were complied with, guaranteeing the health and safety of employees, the public, as well as third-party companies.

The use and consumption of water and wastewater is defined in specific terms for the KKL and KKG nuclear power plants in rules of delivery, which are monitored and approved by the regulatory authority. None of these two Swiss nuclear power plants causes significant heating of a body of water. KKG and KKL are cooled by a cooling tower. The water in the cooling towers comes from the rivers; the reinjection of cooling water introduces minor but tolerated (by regulatory levels) amounts of heat. In hot summer weather with high river temperatures, nuclear power plants reduce their output to stay below the legal limits.

In addition to power production, the KKG supplies the local surrounding industry with climate-friendly process steam which origins from its own on-site operations – an example of re-use of own byproducts. The following table shows the most important public source documents for a detailed presentation of the safety and environmental performance of Swiss nuclear power plants.






Document (source)



ENSI Oversight Report 2022


Comprehensive overall safety assessment of the facilities over the reporting period

ENSI Radiation Safety Report


Performance of the facilities in compliance to regulation on ionising radiation (workers doses, releases, safe handling of radioactive waste)



Regular monitoring of radioactive discharge and emissions into water and air

Table 2: Published regulatory source documents on the safety performance of Swiss nuclear partner plants (among them KKG and KKL) in 2022.

“Back end” of nuclear power production

For the nuclear power plant operators, protecting the public, the employees and the environment from potential risks resulting from nuclear energy production has the highest priority. A very important aspect herein is the safe handling of radioactive waste. As a shareholder in KKG and KKL, Alpiq pays the plantsʼ annual costs in proportion to its share; this includes the costs of financing decommissioning and waste disposal activities.

The financing for dismantling nuclear power plants and for the safe disposal of radioactive waste is secured. To ensure the financial responsibility is adequately managed, the nuclear power plant operators pay into the funds for decommissioning and disposal (STENFO) on an ongoing basis. These funds are subject to federal supervision.

In 2022, KKG paid CHF 2.7 million and KKL CHF 7.7 million (in 2023 the same sums, according to a provisional assessment, were due) into the funds for decommissioning and waste disposal. The payments made into the funds are calculated on the basis of cost estimates prepared every five years for decommissioning and dismantling nuclear power plants and for disposing of nuclear waste.