Mühleberg appeal upheld

02 April 2013

The Mühleberg nuclear power plant can continue operating indefinitely, Switzerland's Federal Court has ruled, overturning a March 2012 ruling by the Federal Administrative Court that it would have to close in June.

Muehleberg (BKW) 460.jpg
Mühleberg (Image: BKW)

In 2009, the Swiss environment ministry issued an unlimited-duration operating licence to the Mühleberg plant, which comprises a single 40-year-old, 372 MWe boiling water reactor.

This decision, however, was overturned in March 2012 by the country's Federal Administrative Court (FAC), which said the plant could only operate until 28 June 2013. The court cited the stability of the core shroud, the plant's ability to withstand a large earthquake and the lack of independent cooling facilities as the reasons for its ruling - issues already under discussion with the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI). Operator BKW FMB Energy subsequently lodged an appeal with the Federal Court in Lausanne against the FAC's ruling, winning its case last week and securing its unlimited-duration operating licence.

One aspect of the former ruling remains: The FAC had decreed that BKW must submit a comprehensive maintenance concept for the long-term operation of the Mühleberg plant to the Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications. BKW submitted the required documents in August 2012. In December 2012, ENSI approved the evidence submitted by BKW supporting the long-term operation of the plant but ordered comprehensive upgrades to be carried out with a view to the plant's continued operation beyond 2017. BKW must now submit a binding implementation plan for those upgrades to ENSI by 30 June.

BKW has been delaying a decision on making safety-related upgrades at Mühleberg. The decision - originally expected in mid-2013 - will now be made at the end of 2013. The utility said that the timeframe for planning the upgrades would only become clear after the Federal Court has made a ruling on the continued operation of the Mühleberg plant.

BKW said that now the Federal Court has ruled on the matter, it can "concentrate on drawing up the implementation plans requested by ENSI and finalize the analysis on which to base the bottom line and investment decisions regarding Mühleberg's continued operation." The company noted, "Intensive work has been underway for several months with this in mind."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News