25 Mar 2020, 13:58
Benjamin Wehrmann

Nuclear plant in Germany taken offline, corona crisis impacts on deconstruction plans

Passauer Neue Presse / Clean Energy Wire

The nuclear plant Gundremmingen in Bavaria will go offline until the end of March or early April due to a malfunctioning fuel element that needs replacing, the Passauer Neue Presse reports. A spokesperson from the plant, which is primarily owned by energy company RWE, said the disturbance does not pose a danger to the public as the plant is designed to cope with this sort of functional disorder. Another plant shutdown had already been scheduled for June, when Gundremmingen will go into a month-long annual review mode. Block B of the south German plant was taken offline at the end of 2017 in line with the country's planned nuclear power phase-out, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022. Gundremmingen is due to go offline completely one year earlier at the end of 2021. 

Meanwhile, energy company EnBW said Germany’s coronavirus outbreak has impacted deconstruction plans for its Philippsburg nuclear plant in Baden-Wurttemberg. The controlled detonation of the plant's cooling towers will take place in mid-May at the earliest and the company will heed "responsible behaviour given the circumstances" for determining the exact demolition date. "When the detonation will take place exactly is completely open at this point," said EnBW's nuclear division head Jörg Michels. He added that a timely removal of the cooling towers is prerequisite for guaranteeing a secure power supply in southern Germany, as the area currently occupied by nuclear plant components is needed for a transformer station for long-distance power lines. These will transport electricity from renewable sources from the country's windy north to industrial centres in the south.

As of early 2020 there still were six nuclear plants in operation in the country. According to research institute Fraunhofer ISE, nuclear power provided about 14 percent of Germany's net electricity last year, less than half as much as in the year 2000. However, the shutdown of Gundremmingen's bloc B meant that Bavaria had to import large volumes of electricity in 2018 for the first time ever. Energy market observers say Germany must move quickly to get its renewables expansion back on track if the country wants to avoid a "green power gap" forcing it to rely on power imports or fossil reserve capacities as it phases out nuclear and coal power in the coming years.

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