14 Feb 2023, 13:03
Sören Amelang

German research reactors can continue to operate after nuclear phase-out

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s nuclear phase-out will not affect the country’s reactors used for research purposes, which can continue to operate after the country’s three remaining nuclear power stations are switched off in mid-April. “Research reactors are not part of the phase-out agreement,” the government said in a response to an enquiry by the opposition conservatives. The safe handling of radioactive waste will have to be guaranteed even after the shutdown of the last remaining nuclear power plants by 15 April, as nuclear waste will not only be generated by the dismantling of power plants, but also in industry, medicine and research, the government added. In contrast to commercial nuclear power plants, research reactors are not used for electricity generation, but rather for making neutrons, which are used for material engineering studies, as well as in medicine and other technological purposes.

The research reactor TRIGA Mar II based in Mainz alone generates around 2 m3 of combustible, low-level radioactive waste in the average year, the government said. BER II, which is based near Berlin and was decommissioned in 2019, also continues to produce radioactive waste. The third facility mentioned by the government is the neutron source FRM II near Munich, which is still in operation and produces 22 m3 of radioactive waste per year.

Germany had originally planned to switch off its remaining three nuclear power plants by the end of 2022. Yet following the energy crisis, and an extended coalition row, the government agreed to prolong the lifespan of all three remaining reactors to 15 April 2023 in order to save gas.

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