RWE protects nuclear plant from early shutdown

10 May 2010

A transfer of generating rights should ensure the survival of the Biblis A nuclear power plant into the next regime.


Biblis (Areva)
Biblis A and B
The German general election of September 2009 saw ruling parties commit to reversing the phase-out of the country's 17 nuclear power reactors, and talks are ongoing to determine new lifetime generation limits. No decision is expected before October this year, while the limits set by the 1998 'Nuclear Exit Law' continue to run down.


As owner of Biblis A, RWE has acted to protect it from closure before new limits are decided by transferring around 4.8 TWh of generating rights from a shut-down reactor owned by EOn. RWE has announced purchasing the rights, which EOn had left over after the extra-early 2003 shutdown of Stade. Both companies confirmed the move, keeping the value secret.


Biblis A is a pressurized water reactor with generating capacity of 1167 MWe. It is entirely owned by RWE, which said the 4.8 TWh of rights would be enough for it to operate for six months. It has already stretched out generation rights by carrying out lengthy upgrades and operating at reduced load. RWE was last year denied the chance to transfer generation rights from another shut-down reactor, Mülheim Kärlich.


"In doing this," RWE said, "the company is making sure a 'point of no return' is not reached before the Energy Concept [policy set], and the reversal of the nuclear phase-out scheme set down in the coalition agreement has been presented." Built in the mid 1970s, any other country would see the Biblis reactors operate until at least around 2015, with a further 20 years or so a commercial possibility subject to certain regulatory requirements.


Nuclear utilities are likely to be forced into paying hefty additional taxes for the luxury of operating their reactors as originally intended before phase-out legislation. Reports have said some politicians wanted to take as much as 50% of the additional profit, although Germany needs its nuclear reactors to meet one quarter of power demand as well as climate change and energy security requirements.


Unable to build new nuclear at home, both RWE and EOn are actively pursuing opportunities abroad, notably in the UK where they have the Horizon Nuclear Power joint venture which plans 6000 MWe in new capacity. Separately, RWE worked towards two new reactors at Belene in Bulgaria and EOn has taken a leading role in the Fennovoima project in Finland.


EOn's statement said: "In anticipation of a sustainable long-term solution for the continued operation of the nuclear power stations in Germany, this sale is an important contribution to preventing the early shutdown of individual power plants and the efficient and climate-friendly use of Stade's existing power quota."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News