German reactor permanently shut down

02 January 2018

The Gundremmingen B boiling water reactor in southern Germany was disconnected from the grid on 31 December after 33 years of operation. The government had ordered the plant to close by the end of last year as part of the country's energy transition.

Gundremmingen NPP - 460 (RWE)
The Gundremmingen plant (Image: RWE)

The reactor was disconnected from the grid at 12.00pm that day and was switched off about half an hour later. The shutdown process was carried out in the presence of retiring power plant manager Michael Trobitz and his successor Heiko Ringel.

Gundremmingen B - a 1284 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR) - has generated a total of 330 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since it started up in 1984. In a statement, operator Kernkraftwerk Gundremmingen (KGG) said this is more than half of Germany's annual electricity consumption. It noted that over its lifetime, Gundremmingen B operated with a capacity factor of around 90%. The unit is 75% owned by RWE and 25% by EOn.

RWE Power executive board member Nikolaus Valerius said, "We are proud of the performance of the Gundremmingen team, who operated unit B safely and reliably until the last hour, optimising it with the same professionalism." He added, "With great motivation, we now tackle the safe dismantling of the plant."

While regulatory approval to decommission the unit is still pending, KGG said work will now begin to transfer the used fuel from the storage pool at Gundremmingen B into Castor containers and taken to the on-site interim storage facility.

Under Germany's nuclear phase-out policy, Gundremmingen C - a 1288 MWe BWR that started up in 1985 - will be able to continue operating until the end of 2021.

Phase-out policy

In September 2010, an agreement was reached between Germany's nuclear power plant operators and the government to grant eight-year licence extensions for reactors built before 1980, and 14-year extensions for later ones. The price exacted for this included a tax of €145 ($175) per gram of fissile uranium or plutonium fuel for six years, yielding €2.3 billion per year; payment of €300 million per year in 2011 and 2012, and €200 million 2013-16, to subsidise renewables and for funding rehabilitation at the Asse salt mine waste repository. A tax of 0.9 c/kWh for the same purpose would follow after 2016. At the end of October 2010 these measures were confirmed by parliamentary vote on two amendments to Germany's Atomic Energy Act, and this was confirmed in the upper house the following month.

Then, in March 2011, the government declared a three-month moratorium on nuclear power plans, in which checks would take place and nuclear policy would be reconsidered. Chancellor Angela Merkel decreed that the country's nuclear power reactors which began operations in 1980 or earlier should be immediately shut down. This decision was not based on any safety assessment, and did not result in removal of the fuel tax.

In May 2011, after increasing pressure from anti-nuclear federal states, the government decided to revive the previous government's phase-out plan and close all reactors by 2022, but again without abolishing the fuel tax.

Germany now has seven power reactors in operation with a combined generating capacity of 9444 MWe. The next scheduled closure of a German reactor is EnBW's 1392 MWe Phillipsburg 2 pressurised water reactor in 2019.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News