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Swiss utilities throw in towel over new nuclear plants

ZURICH Oct 12 Swiss utilities Axpo, Alpiq and BKW have withdrawn their joint request to build nuclear plants, bowing to the Swiss decision to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The three companies said on Wednesday they had asked the government to cancel the framework request submitted in 2008 that was suspended in 2011 following the disaster.

"Today the market is a very different one and in the meantime policymakers have set the course for a future without nuclear power," they said in a joint statement.

While the government aims to phase out nuclear energy eventually, it said on Tuesday it opposed an initiative to be voted on next month that would shutter three nuclear plants next year.

A hasty shutdown would leave energy security in tatters, boost dependence on German coal-fired power and expose taxpayers to utilities' demands for remuneration, the government said.

Its "Energy Strategy 2050" programme bans new nuclear stations while supporting renewable energy sources measures to reduce energy consumption.

That programme is under threat, however, with the Swiss People's Party, parliament's most powerful, pushing a referendum via the Swiss system of direct democracy to dump it. (Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by David Clarke)

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