Upgrade allows continued operation of Ringhals units

17 November 2017

Some SEK900 million ($107 million) will be invested in installing independent core cooling systems at units 3 and 4 of the Ringhals nuclear power plant in Sweden. The legally-required safety upgrade will enable the two reactors to continue operating beyond 2020.

Ringhals 3 and 4 - 460 (Vattenfall)
Ringhals 3 and 4 (Image: Vattenfall)

Vattenfall's reactors at Forsmark and Ringhals have already undergone a comprehensive modernisation programme to allow them to operate until the mid-2040s. However, in October 2014, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said by 2020 all operating Swedish reactors must have a "robust permanent installation that includes power supply and systems for pumping of water and an external water source independent of those used in existing emergency cooling systems". This requires engineering deep within the reactor building and potentially its primary coolant circuit.

The decision to install independent core cooling systems at Ringhals 3 and 4 was taken today by the board of directors of both Ringhals AB and Vattenfall.

Torbjörn Wahlborg, head of generation at Vattenfall and chairman of the board of Ringhals AB, said: "This is a very positive decision, and it means that Ringhals will continue to supply climate-smart electricity for a long time to come. The investment comes at a time when essential measures are being taken to increase efficiency in order to meet the tough competition on the electricity market."

He added, "With the decision to upgrade Ringhals 3 and 4 with independent core cooling, we are adding a further safety system to plants that are already safe, and we can now plan for continued operation for coming decades."

Vattenfall's board of directors decided in June 2016 to install independent core cooling at the three boiling water reactors at Forsmark, in which it holds a 66% stake. At that time, Vattenfall noted the project to install the systems in all three reactors at Forsmark "will take several years and will be planned not to impact energy production".

Revised closure dates for units 1 and 2

In April 2015, Vattenfall - which owns a 70.4% stake in the Ringhals plant - announced that, due to declining profitability and increased costs, it had informed co-owner EOn of its decision to close Ringhals units 1 and 2 in 2018-2020 instead of 2025 as previously planned.

In September of that year, Vattenfall said that it would limit future investment in the units, effectively meaning that they would be unable to operate beyond 2020. The following month it confirmed Ringhals 2 would be decommissioned in June 2019 and Ringhals 1 in June 2020.

At its board meeting today, the board of directors of Ringhals AB decided to extend the operation of the two reactors by up to six months. Units 1 and 2 will now be shut in December 2020 and December 2019, respectively. It noted there will be no further extension to the operation of either unit.

Björn Linde, CEO of both the Ringhals and Forsmark plants, said: "By extending the operating period by up to six months, we can utilise the nuclear fuel we have already bought for fossil-free electricity generation instead of putting it straight into the planned final repository. The extension is profitable for Ringhals, for Swedish electricity generation and for the climate."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News