15 Dec 2022, 13:40
Benjamin Wehrmann

Further runtime extension for German nuclear plants no longer possible – EnBW

Süddeutsche Zeitung

A second runtime extension for Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants beyond April 2023 is technically unfeasible and thus no option for stabilising the country’s power grid in the winter of 2023-2024, EnBW board member Georg Stamatelopoulos told Süddeutsche Zeitung in an interview. “It’s too late for another runtime extension,” he said, arguing that operator companies that had initially planned to shut down their reactors at the end of December this year lack nuclear fuel rods, staff and logistical preparations to uphold operations beyond the extension granted until spring. “This industry simply no longer exists in Germany, as we’ve built it back for over ten years.” The board member of the energy company operating the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant in southwestern Germany warned that a nuclear reactor “is not a toy train that you turn on and off and it always works,” adding that he was “astounded” by the lack of technical understanding in public debates. “Nuclear power is no longer an option for Germany,” Stamatelopoulos said, adding that another extension would have been possible only for several more years and not just months. “If that had been politically desired, this decision would have had to be taken a long time ago.” He said extending the Neckarwestheim reactor’s runtime will cost the company tens of millions of euros, partly because finalised contracts with dismantling service providers had to be changed. However, even without the three remaining reactors, a large blackout in Germany’s power grid remained “very unlikely” also next year, he added. “We might have to do some load shifting in a difficult situation,” Stamatelopoulos said. The main risk stemmed from the 15 reactors in France that have been put out of operation. “It’s unclear when the colleagues in France can fix this,” he said, adding that Germany had exported electricity to its neighbour France throughout all of 2022.

Germany’s last three nuclear reactors all were granted a runtime extension of three and a half months earlier this year to serve as a backup for the power system amid the European energy crisis. The country’s nuclear exit, initially agreed on in the year 2000, has seen the share of nuclear power in the energy mix drop constantly in the past years without disruptions to supply security. But critics argue that the loss of Russian gas as a bridge until more renewable power is available makes a longer use of nuclear reactors necessary.

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