20 Sep 2022, 13:12
Benjamin Wehrmann

Urgent repairs needed at nuclear plant earmarked to back up German electricity

dpa / Zeit Online / Clean Energy Wire

One of the two nuclear plants in Germany slated to go into an emergency reserve until April 2023 has to undergo urgent maintenance work due to a valve leak before prolonging operations, a spokesperson for the environment ministry (BMUV) told news agency dpa. The plant Isar 2, in Bavaria, could run without compromised safety until its original decommissioning date at the end of this year, operator Preussen Elektra, a subsidiary of energy company E.ON, had told the ministry. However, if the plant is to be moved into the emergency reserve, it will need to undergo repairs that are necessary to guarantee prolonged operation in line with nuclear safety standards, the company said. The repairs should be carried out in October and will require a week-long shutdown of the reactor, it added. The environment ministry said it would assess “the new state of affairs and its effects on the concept and implementation of the standby reserve”. According to the BMUV, PreussenElektra has so far said the reactor could run until the end of the year with near-full capacity. Also the technical certification institution TÜV Süd and several politicians from Bavaria had repeatedly said the Isar 2 plant is in good shape and can produce power beyond its original shutdown date on 31 December.

NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) said the leak in the Bavarian reactor clearly showed that Isar 2 “is a safety risk that needs to go offline immediately”. DUH head Sascha Müller-Kraenner said transferring the plant into the reserve “must not be considered”. The last routine safety checks for the Isar 2 plant, which are supposed to take place in intervals of ten years, happened 13 years ago, Müller-Kraenner said. “Further safety risks cannot be ruled out.”

The standby reserve had been proposed by economy minister Robert Habeck as a backup for the southern German power grid in the coming winter amid the energy crisis. Together with another plant in southern Germany, Isar 2 is supposed to provide emergency capacity in the region that suffers from a lack of renewable power capacity and transmission line connections to northern Germany, where much more wind power is available during the winter months. The third plant, Emsland in northern Germany, will go offline as planned. The economy ministry (BMWK) and the environment ministry, which is also responsible for nuclear safety, are both in talks with the nuclear plant operators to prepare a transfer of the reactors into the emergency reserve.

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