Proposal sees Mühleberg operating to 2022

07 March 2013

The Mühleberg nuclear power plant could avoid shutdown this year and operate until 2022 under an initiative announced by the government of the Swiss canton of Bern. Operator BKW FMB Energy said the proposal for a negotiated shutdown "could be an option."

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 can only operate until 28 June 2013. BKW has lodged an appeal with the Federal Court against the FAC's ruling, but is still awaiting the court's decision.

Meanwhile, a citizens' initiative, known as Mühleberg Off, was filed in February 2012 and calls for the canton of Berne to ensure the immediate closure of the Mühleberg plant. However, the cantonal government decided in October to oppose the initiative.

The canton of Bern - which holds a 53% stake in BKW - has now proposed negotiating with BKW the shutdown of the plant "as soon as possible, but no later than 2022" as an alternative to the Mühleberg Off initiative. The canton said that the plant would only have to close immediately if the regulator doubted its continued safe operation.

While the Bern canton is the majority shareholder in BKW, the remaining shares are held by Groupe E (10%), EOn Energie (7%) and BKW FMB Energy Ltd (10%), with the other 20% held by other parties.

The Bern canton said that a closure agreed with BKW poses less of a risk to the canton in term of liability, while also complying with the national energy policy, which calls for the orderly exit from nuclear power.

The canton said that forcing the immediate closure of the Mühleberg plant would not be in the interest of BKW and the other shareholders in the company could seek compensation. "The claims for damages could amount to hundreds of millions of Swiss francs," it said.

The Bern canton said that its proposal is open for consultation until the end of May and would likely to be adopted in mid-August.

BKW, which has based its business plan up to 2030 on the 2022 closure of Mühleberg, said that it approved of the canton's proposal. The company said that it will evaluate all its options and will make a decision in principle by the end of this year on the continued operation of Mühleberg. BKW said that the canton's proposal for an agreed shutdown date could be "a possible solution."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News