Grafenrheinfeld ends electricity production

29 June 2015

The single-unit Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant in Germany was disconnected from the grid on 27 June after 33 years of operation. The government had ordered the plant to close by the end of this year as part of the country's energy transition.

Grafenrheinfeld - 460 (EOn)
Grafenrheinfeld (Image: EOn)

Plant owner EOn announced yesterday that the unit was disconnected from the grid at one minute to midnight on 27 June.

The 1275 pressurized water reactor has generated more than 333 billion kWh of electricity, the company said, sufficient to supply electricity to the whole of Bavaria for about four years. Compared with a lignite power plant, Grafenrheinfeld has avoided the emission of some 355 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, EOn estimates. Until recently, the plant had been supplying about 11.5% of Bavaria's electricity.

Construction of Grafenrheinfeld began in January 1975. The reactor achieved first criticality in December 1981 and was connected to the grid in the same month. It entered commercial operation in June 1982.

EOn said that about €600 million ($667 million) had been invested in modernizing the plant during its operating life, with some €72 million ($80 million) spent in the past three-and-a-half years alone.

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 ($161) per gram of fissile uranium or plutonium fuel for six years, yielding €2.3 billion ($2.6 billion) per year; payment of €300 million ($333 million) per year in 2011 and 2012, and €200 million ($222 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.

Under this plan, the Grafenrheinfeld plant was scheduled to shut on 31 December 2015. However, EOn decided in March 2014 to close the plant seven months early, claiming the government tax on nuclear fuel makes its final period of operation uneconomic. The company did not refuel the unit last month on the basis that it cannot recoup the cost of the tax before the plant is ordered to close at the end of 2015.

Germany now has eight power reactors in operation with a combined generating capacity of 10,728 MWe. The next scheduled closure of a German reactor is RWE's 1284 MWe Gundremmingen B boiling water reactor by the end of 2017.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News