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Swiss energy minister to back nuclear exit -papers

ZURICH, May 22 (Reuters) - Energy minister Doris Leuthard is set to propose Switzerland gradually exits nuclear power, two Swiss newspapers reported on Sunday, citing sources close to the government.

The multi-party Swiss government was expected to make an announcement on nuclear policy on Wednesday and may recommend an exit.

The NZZ am Sonntag and the SonntagsZeitung both reported Leuthard favoured an approach similar to that of economy minister Johann Schneider-Ammann. [ID:nLDE73N061]

"She wants to set a clear signal for the exit," the NZZ am Sonntag quoted a source as saying.

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. [ID:nLDE72D1EJ]

The two papers reported Leuthard backed continuing to use current nuclear plants until the end of their lifespans, not building any new ones, and expanding alternative energy sources such as water power.

Switzerland's five nuclear reactors generate about 40 percent of the country's electricity. Decisions on sites for new plants were due to be made in mid-2012.

The NZZ quoted Fulvio Pelli, head of the pro-business Free Democrats, as saying his party would decide its position on nuclear power on May 30 and would likely not insist on replacing the two oldest plants, Beznau and Muehleberg. (Reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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