Axpo considers extended operation of Beznau plant

03 April 2024

Swiss utility Axpo said it is assessing the technical feasibility of operating the two-unit Beznau nuclear power plant beyond the 60 years currently planned.

The Beznau plant (Image: ENSI)

The two 365 MWe Westinghouse pressurised water reactors at the Beznau plant are the oldest power reactors in Switzerland. Unit 1 began operating in 1969, while unit 2 entered operation in 1972. In addition to providing power, both units also produce district heating.

Axpo noted that there are no service life restrictions for nuclear power plants in Switzerland – they may continue to operate as long as it remains safe to do so. The company said it is still planning to operate the Beznau plant for 60 years, but is now assessing the fundamental feasibility of operating it beyond this scope. "The aspect of safety is the top priority and non-negotiable," it added.

Since their commissioning, Axpo has invested more than CHF2.5 billion (USD2.8 billion) into retrofitting and modernising the two units.

"Whether operation beyond the previously intended 60 years is fundamentally feasible depends on several factors, which are currently being assessed by Axpo in a preliminary project," it said. "These include the integrity of central components (such as reactor pressure vessels) and the availability of personnel, suppliers and fuel. Axpo has begun the necessary comprehensive investigation. The work for this preliminary project is expected to take roughly one year."

The Beznau plant produces about 6 TWh of electricity annually, meeting the needs of 1.3 million four-person households.

"Nuclear power is particularly important for security of supply as it can be produced in winter, during which time almost half of the electricity produced in Switzerland comes from nuclear power," Axpo said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News