BKW applies to decommission Mühleberg

21 December 2015

Swiss utility BKW has initiated the process for decommissioning the Mühleberg nuclear power plant by submitting an application to the government. The plant is due to shut down by the end of 2019.

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The single-unit Mühleberg plant (Image: ENSI)

BKW submitted the application to the country's Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (DETEC) on 18 December.

The application comprises the main report detailing the project's conceptual framework and three sub-reports: accident analyses and emergency protection measures; the environmental impact report; and the safety report.

The documents will be reviewed for completeness by the authorities - including the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) - in the coming months. The documents are expected to be put forward for public consultation in early April 2016. The consultation period will last about one month. Appeals can be made by anyone who opposes the proposed decommissioning project implementation.

The Swiss cantons of Bern, Solothurn, Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Vaud and federal authorities will also be consulted on the decommissioning project.

BKW said it anticipates receiving the decommissioning order from DETEC in mid-2018. This, it said, should ensure that any potential appeal procedures can be finalized before the plant's planned shutdown.

DETEC's decision is subject to appeal before the Federal Administrative Court or the Federal Court.

The utility said it has "worked hard to press ahead with the decommissioning project and has compiled and submitted the necessary documents in good time". BKW noted, "Experience from abroad shows that legal processes are more likely to considerably delay the decommissioning process than technical challenges."

Commenting on the submission of the application, BKW head of production Hermann Ineichen said: "Today we have reached an important milestone in the path to decommissioning the Mühleberg nuclear power plant. We are now embarking on the decommissioning process, which is set to last several years."

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.

Switzerland's federal government has decided to phase out the five nuclear reactors which generate 40% of the country's electricity by not replacing them with new nuclear capacity at the end of their anticipated working lives. The decision came in response to the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan and would effectively see all of Switzerland's nuclear power plants shut by 2035.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News