Three become one for new nuclear in Switzerland

23 December 2010

Three Swiss utilities have agreed to jointly develop projects to replace old reactors and cut back on energy imports from France. 


The move is the latest configuration of power companies that want to address an upcoming security of supply issue in the country.


In late 2007, Axpo, Centralschweizerische Kraftwerke (CFC) and BKW FMB Energie joined forces in a new company to replace the Beznau and Muhleberg nuclear power plants. One year later, after Axpo had taken control of CFC as a subsidiary, Axpo and BKW FMB filed 'framework permit applications' for the replacement. Separately Alpiq has made the same kind of application with reference to the Niederamt site.


Now Axpo and BKW have been joined by Alpiq to "join forces in further pursuing the planning and construction of two new nuclear power stations." This will replace old reactors and "compensate for long-term import agreements with France which are due to expire." The concept of building new reactors at all three sites was approved by the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) in November.


Beznau composite (Photo: Axpo)
Beznau's existing units are on the right, with a new reactor and
low-profile hybrid cooling tower on the left in this composite image


Currently Muhleberg hosts a 306 MWe boiling water reactor, while Beznau plant hosts two 350 MWe pressurized water reactors. As a combined heat and power plant Beznau also provides 80 MW in heat to industry and homes over a 130 kilometre network that reaches 11 towns. Under current plans, power generation at those sites would end in around 2020. At the same time around 2000 MWe of imported nuclear energy from France would begin to be phased out and a 355 MWe hydro plant at Mill Mountain would close. The loss of so much low-carbon power generation at one time could be a serious environmental issue for Switzerland.  


The three firms said they will combine their current projects in a joint planning company on an equal basis. "Decisions on sites or the order of priority will be made at a later stage," said a joint statement. This could be in mid-2012 when the government isseus a 'draft message and decision' on their proposals.


The framework permit applications already in the system detail that the new power plants will be up to 1600 MWe in capacity but do not specify any reactor type or vendor. This decision would only come shortly before a construction permit application, but Axpo and BWK indicated a fleet mentality in 2008: "It is clear that two identical latest-generation power plants should be built, and that only one manufacturer of a globally recognised technology should be considered."


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News