Political nuclear closures hit two units

26 April 2005

Two European nuclear plants are set to close towards the end of May as political decisions accelerate their closure. Both Germany and Sweden have voted to phase out nuclear generation and both countries are set to see reactor closures this month.

Sweden’s 600MWe Barsebäck 2 BWR is due to follow the 1999 closure of its unit 1 by shutting down at the end of May. Operated by Vattenfall subsidiary Barsebäck Kraft, the facility is majority-owned by Vattenfall with Sydkraft as minority partner through nuclear holding company Ringhalsgruppen. According to Barsebäck Kraft, the reactor is in a very good condition with 2004 the best production year so far in the plant’s life.

Nonetheless, Vattenfall is in talks with the Swedish government over compensation for the closure. While the government and Vattenfall have a framework compensation agreement from the closure of Barsebäck 1 in late 1999 and the parameters for compensation for closure of Barsebäck 2, a number of issues remain to be resolved. Sydkraft is to be compensated for the closure with additional shares in Ringhalsgruppen, decreasing Vattenfall’s stake for which the company will require extra compensation. In addition, the loss of revenue related to projected power prices up to 2017, when Barsebäck would have been running for 40 years, would also need to be taken into consideration.

As the deadline approaches, energy minister Mona Sahlin has reportedly warned: “The government will not be bullied” into reversing the decision, despite high profile lobbying attempts by the forestry, engineering, automotive, ship-building and chemicals industries which have united to fight the shutdown plan. “All of us, government and industrial leaders, must take a closer look at alternative energies,” said Sahlin, adding: “The question is not if, but when and how nuclear will be shut down. But it is clear we will need nuclear for a relatively long time.”

Gert Lyngsjö, a spokesman for Sydkraft said the company “considers it essential that a solution be found that will provide predictability and enable a long-term and sustainable approach. Not least in order to bring the stable conditions needed to build new production capacity.”

Meanwhile, German utility EnBW announced the final closure of the country’s oldest nuclear plant, the 357MWe Obrigheim, after 36 years of service. The company plans to dismantle the unit in three stages by 2023 under part of a deal to close all of Germany’s nuclear units by 2021. Under the terms of this 2001 deal, nuclear generators are permitted to produce a total of 2623TWh and operators had used up 31% of their remaining nuclear allowance by the end of 2004, according to the country’s radiation office (BfS). Operators of the 18 remaining nuclear plants are left to generate 1829TWh of power, about 15 years of production given that the 18 remaining German nuclear plants generated about 158TWh in 2004.

EnBW does not intend to question the decision on nuclear energy with chief executive Utz Claassen saying: “We cannot start to take action against something we agreed to as an industry, and we will stand by that.”




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