Germany’s Brokdorf reactor offline pending fuel investigations

20 March 2017

Germany's 1400MWe Brokdorf nuclear reactor may remain offline longer than the late-March restart date, which had already been delayed, after the nuclear regulator rejected a request by operator PreussenElektra (part of E.ON) for a reload of the reactor core.

PreussenElektra on 14 March postponed the restart date by one more week to 27 March and requested approval to reload the reactor core following a "meticulous" investigation of all fuel rods after an "unusually thick oxide layer" was discovered on one rod during a routine inspection. The Brokdorf reactor was taken offline for refuelling on 4 February and the oxide layer was discovered and reported to the Schleswig-Holstein environment ministry, which is the regulator, on 20 February.

PreussenElektra said in a statement that the nuclear power plant is now completely in accordance with regulations. However, the environment ministry rejected the request, on the grounds that a new reactor core would need to be registered with the regulator three months beforehand, under the terms of the plant licence, to allow for a detailed assessment of all its safety parameters.

Environment minister Robert Habeck said in a statement that PreussenElektra's measures “so far do not fully conform with our requirements”. The ministry’s nuclear safety experts said the reason for the oxide layer discovered in February was not yet fully explained and there is no proof that the affected fuel rods are coming from only one faulty charge.

"Approval for a restart of the nuclear power plant can only be given once it is clear that the problem cannot be repeated on other fuel rods," the statement added.

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