Sweden became the first nation to endorse a program to rid itself of nuclear power as its Parliament voted to unplug two nuclear reactors by 1996.
The bill, adopted Tuesday, set the timetable for dismantling the first of Sweden's 12 reactors and established a mechanism for deciding when to shut down the others within 21 years.The bill passed with support of 160 of Parliament's 349 legislators, but 70 others voted against and 82 abstained. The rest were absent.
Under the law, one reactor will close in the Barseback complex in southern Sweden and another in Ringhals on the western coast.
Swedes voted in a 1980 non-binding referendum to dismantle nuclear energy by the year 2010.
Though the power stations have proven safe and provided cheap electricity, Energy Minister Birgitta Dahl said "it is a matter of honor" to keep the referendum's promise.
But doubts remain about the wisdom of the public's decision, taken in the heat of worldwide debate following the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. The plant near Harrisburg, Pa., was damaged in March 1979 after a combination of human and mechanical errors led to a partial meltdown of the nuclear core.
Sweden's first reactor was built in 1971, and the final two were installed five years after the referendum.
Nuclear power provides half the energy needs of Sweden, a country slightly larger than California with a population of 8.4 million.
Dismantling the two reactors could cost $800 million and the nuclear plants will probably be replaced with coal or oil-fired stations, according to Vattenfall, the government's energy agency.
Swedes now pay about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, which means an average household pays about $30 a month for electricity, including heating during the long, frigid winters.