Approval for decommissioning of Swiss reactor

22 June 2018

Swiss utility BKW has been issued with a decommissioning order for the Mühleberg nuclear power plant, which is scheduled to permanently shut down at the end of 2019. The order from the country's Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (DETEC) states the decommissioning work must be carried out in accordance with a plan submitted by BKW in 2015.

The Mühleberg plant, due to shut next year (Image: ENSI)

BKW announced in late 2013 that Mühleberg will be permanently shut down in 2019 instead of the earlier planned 2022 because of "uncertainty surrounding political and regulatory trends". The single 372 MWe boiling water reactor began operating in 1972. It will be the first Swiss nuclear power plant to be decommissioned.

In December 2015, BKW submitted an application to DETEC for permission to decommission the plant, together with a plan for the decommissioning works.

BKW informed the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) in February 2016 that the Mühleberg plant will be disconnected from the grid on 20 December 2019. However, it noted this shutdown date assumes that "the legal framework necessary to begin immediate dismantling is implemented". One of the prerequisites is obtaining the necessary decommissioning permit from ENSI.

DETEC has now approved BKW's application to decommission Mühleberg. The order says the decommissioning works must be carried out in accordance with the decommissioning plan submitted by BKW in 2015. In addition, various requirements will have to be met, in particular the technical, organisational and procedural conditions laid down by ENSI in its report of August 2017.

DETEC also requires BKW to submit a plan to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy for the dismantling of the conventional parts of the plant by the end of 2027.

BKW said receipt of the order "represents another milestone and paves the way for the first decommissioning of a power reactor in Switzerland".

"We are happy to have received the decommissioning order in mid-2018," said BKW CEO Suzanne Thoma. "This way, we are procedurally on track, as well as financially and in terms of planning."

Planning for the decommissioning and dismantling of Mühleberg is already at an advanced stage, according to BKW. The company submitted detailed outlines to ENSI at the end of 2017 for the period immediately after the end of operations in December 2019, as well as the first stage of decommissioning. "In doing so, BKW laid the groundwork for dismantling to begin immediately after the Mühleberg nuclear power plant has been taken off the grid," BKW said.

BKW said it will cover the entire costs of decommissioning and dismantling Mühleberg. It said it has made the necessary provisions and pays money into the country's Decommissioning and Waste Disposal Funds, which are monitored by the federal government.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News