German demolition plans revealed

13 May 2013

EnBW Kernkraft (EnKK) has formally applied to the state of Baden-Wurttemberg for permission to decommission and demolish two nuclear units forced to close by German politicians in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Neckarwestheim (EnBW)
Neckarwestheim (Image: EnBW)

Neckarwestheim unit 1 and Philippsburg unit 1 were among the eight oldest German reactors taken out of service at the order of Chancellor Angela Merkel days after a tsunami hit Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. EnKK has now filed applications for the "final and permanent" decommissioning of both units and for initial demolition permits with the state ministry for the environment, energy and climate change.

EnKK had previously announced its intention to carry out a direct decommissioning program at the closed units, rather than taking the more usual route of deferring the work. Postponing final decommissioning to allow radioactive decay to take place ultimately makes the overall task easier and cheaper to carry out, but the company said in 2012 that it already had sufficient funds set aside to cover the work.

Detailed documents supporting the demolition permit applications will probably be submitted by the end of the year, EnKK says. At the same time, EnKK says it will prepare the applications for infrastructure to support the demolition, such as a residual material treatment centre at Neckarwestheim and on-site waste storage facilities at both sites, which will be subject to separate authorisation procedures. A new residual material treatment centre will not be needed at Philippsburg, where existing structures such as the turbine house can be used. A permit for the necessary modifications to allow this use has been included in the initial decommissioning and demolition application for the plant.

Public participation and environmental impact assessments also form part of the process for securing the initial decommissioning and demolition permits, and EnKK has vowed to "make the process transparent above and beyond the obligatory participation of the public" while providing "comprehensive information in addition to that provided for by the formal procedure."

The separate applications submitted for the two units reflect the different conditions specific to the two plants and their locations: Neckarwestheim 1 is a pressurised water reactor (PWR), while Philippsburg 1 is a boiling water reactor. However, EnKK says it has been able to make use of its experience from the permitting procedure for demolition work at the Obrigheim plant, a small PWR that shut down in 2005 after 36 years of operation and has been in the process of demolition since 2008.

The German government followed up its decision to summarily close the country's oldest nuclear plants with a policy of replacing nuclear power with renewables and some extra fossil fuel capacity, known as the Energiewende. As well as the dramatic shortening of the operating lives of the remaining nuclear power plants, Germany's nuclear operators are also faced with a nuclear fuel tax imposed prior to the policy turnaround. Earlier this year, EnKK parent company EnBW reported that the closure of the Neckarwestheim and Philippsburg units had resulted in a 4.3% drop in its profits for 2012. A second unit continues in operation at both of the sites. Philippsburg 2 is scheduled to shut down in 2019 and Neckarwestheim 2 in 2022.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News