Sweden has proposed to lift a nearly 30-year-old ban on nuclear power and annulled its nuclear phase-out. The country said on Thursday that nuclear power would be an important source of electricity while it acts on a new sustainable energy and climate policy.

The country’s generation portfolio is split almost evenly between nuclear power—produced by 10 reactors—and hydropower. If parliament approves its proposed energy policy (PDF), Stockholm will pursue its vision of “no net emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” by 2050. This means that it would produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. It also plans to use natural gas during the transitional period, but the government said that development of gas-fired generation would have to support the gradual introduction of biogas.

The use of nuclear power in the country would be limited to 10 reactors at existing sites, and it would be possible to grant permits to replace current reactors as they reach the end of their life, the government said of the EU-approved policy. Permits for new reactors will be assessed on the basis of legislative requirements for the best available technology.

Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall applauded the government’s proposed policy. “We’re interested in building new nuclear power plants, provided that there is demand for this and it is profitable. We can now start to examine and weigh up the options,” said President and CEO Lars G. Josefsson in a press release.

The Nordic country is the latest in a string of European countries—including Finland, France, the UK, and Italy—to factor nuclear power into long-term plans for secure electricity supplies.

On Thursday, Finish utility Fortum submitted an application to the Finnish government for a decision-in-principle on the construction of a new nuclear power plant on the island of Hästholmen in Loviisa. The company’s application comes barely a month after nuclear power company Fennovoima submitted a similar application for another new nuclear plant. Teollisuuden Voima Oyj, the company that is currently constructing an EPR at Olkiluoto has also proposed to build another reactor at that site, having applied for a decision-in-principle in April 2008.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently announced that France would build its second EPR at Penly, is contemplating a third reactor, Reuters reported. The UK’s sites for that country’s next generation of nuclear power plants have, meanwhile, been contended for by Électricité de France, a joint venture consisting of German giants E.ON and RWE, and, more recently, a partnership involving France’s GDF Suez, Spain’s Iberdrola, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

Like Sweden, Italy in May last year announced it would resume building nuclear plants—two decades after a public referendum banned nuclear power and the nation deactivated all of its reactors. The country now has its sights on building between 8 and 10 reactors, with the aim of having them supply a quarter of Italy’s power needs by 2030.

Sweden had in 1980 passed a referendum banning construction of new reactors. Only two of the country’s 12 nuclear plants have so far closed. According to German weekly magazine Spiegel, Sweden’s model inspired Germany’s 2000 law to phase out nuclear power. But Sweden’s decision Thursday means that Germany, whose last reactor will go offline by 2013, will be the only European nation intent on phasing out nuclear power.

Some German conservative politicians are not taking that lightly. Last week they pushed for a similar reconsideration of their country’s energy strategy, reported Deutsche Welle. Analysts had been calling for an urgent reassessment of the nuclear phase-out earlier this year, when gas exports to Germany dwindled to a stop during the Gazprom-Ukraine spat. The country relies on Russia to supply 40% of its gas, though only 10% of that imported gas is used for power generation.

The Gazprom-Ukraine gas crisis had also prompted several Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria and Slovakia, to consider restarting nuclear facilities that were shut down in accordance with EU accession treaties. Poland and Lithuania, meanwhile, stepped up plans to build new nuclear plants.

Last week, Germany’s Siemens was reportedly looking at a possible partnership with Russian nuclear company Rosatom, only a few weeks after Siemens withdrew its 34% stake in a nuclear joint venture with AREVA. According to Reuters, Russia has been trying to break into the U.S. and European markets. Rosatom and Siemens have partnered on several projects, the most recent being the Belene nuclear plant in Bulgaria.

Sources: Government of Sweden, Fortum, Fennovoima, Spiegel, Deutsche Welle,