ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's economy minister said on Sunday it would be decades before the country could give up nuclear power completely but that in the meantime no new nuclear power plants should be built.
Johann Schneider-Ammann, of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) said the initiative to develop 'green' technologies needed to come from the private sector, with the public sector in charge of implementing the right framework.
"Yes it's possible to get out but it will take time, maybe 30 years, until we can do without nuclear power entirely," the newspaper SonntagsZeitung quoted him as saying. "New nuclear power plants are not possible."
"I too am convinced that in the medium term we need a new course away from nuclear power and toward alternatives."
The damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan has revived debate about energy policy in Switzerland, where the approvals process for three new nuclear power stations was suspended in March pending a review of safety standards.
Switzerland's five nuclear reactors generate about 40 percent of the country's electricity but some will have to be retired in coming years. Decisions on sites for new plants were due to be made in mid-2012. In a separate interview with the SonntagsZeitung, the head of business lobby economiesuisse said nuclear power was needed until there were enough alternative forms of power, because Swiss energy prices needed to remain competitive.
"We should still continue at the current nuclear power sites with reactors that have been made more secure," President Gerold Buehrer said, adding economiesuisse was supporting water, solar, wind and geo-thermal power. "An exit from nuclear power is simply not possible for decades."
(Reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by David Cowell)