German utilities and vendors, led by Framatome ANP, are negotiating a framework under which utilities will pay for enough service work to justify vendors retaining key experts on their payrolls to prevent loss of engineering expertise.

Given the continued attrition of key personnel in Germany, without such a pooling of resources, it would not be possible to guarantee safe operation of Germany’s 19 reactors during the remaining lifetimes allowed under the June 2000 national nuclear phase-out agreement.

Walter Hohlefelder, responsible for management of all E.ON’s reactors, said that the consolidation of nuclear service firms posed some dangers of competance gaps in a few areas where a single firm is now the sole provider of engineering services.

According to data from Siemens, in 1989, it employed over 7000 nuclear engineers. This has steadily fallen to the current level of 3000.