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Bavaria’s Ministry of the Environment has issued an approval notice to begin dismantling unit 2 of Germany’s Isar NPP. In accordance with the requirements of the Federal Atomic Energy Act. The 1400 MWe pressurised water reactor at Isar 2 was one of Germany's last three nuclear plants to be shut down in April 2023. It supplied some 18% of Bavarian electricity production and was the most powerful NPP in Germany. PreussenElektra – which is responsible for the decommissioning of eight nuclear plants in Germany – had already submitted the application to decommission and dismantle the plant in July 2019.

Isar 2 was closed in line with Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power, taken in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan. Eight nuclear units were permanently shut down in 2012. These included EnBW's Phillipsburg unit 1 and Neckarwestheim unit1; E.ON's Isar unit 1 and Unterweser; RWE's Biblis A&B and Vattenfall's Brunsbüttel and Krümmel (both already closed). The remaining nine reactors were to close by the end of 2022. E.ON’s Grafenrheinfeld closed in 2015; RWE’s Grundremmingen B in 2017; EnBW’s Phillippsburg unit 2 in 2019; Vattenfall’s Brokdorf, E.ON’s Grohnde and RWE’s Gundremmingen C in 2021; and E.ON’s Isar 2, EnBW’s Neckarwestheim 2 and RWE’s Emsland in April 2023. Two older reactors – E.ON’s Stade NPP and ENBW’s Obrigheim had already been shut down in 2003 and 2005.

While PreussenElektra welcomed the approval, Bavaria's Environment Minister Thorsten Glauber said “the shutdown of the last nuclear power plants in April 2023 was wrong”. He added: “We have always been committed to temporarily running the nuclear power plants as a climate-friendly bridge. We have laid down roadmap for renewable energies in the Bavarian Climate Protection Act. And look to on the fastest possible expansion.”

However, while the future belongs to renewable energies, “we have not yet arrived at the future”. Given the current global challenges, we need “every kilowatt hour that we can generate ourselves”. He said, with Isar 2 it would still be possible to produce free electricity in Bavaria. “It is not understandable why the federal government does not want to see this and instead relies on more coal.” He continued: “With Isar 2, the federal government has taken one of the world's safest and most reliable nuclear power plants off the grid unnecessarily. A system in its prime should be dismantled after only 35 years of operation. It's like sending a healthy 50-year-old into retirement. It is dishonest to import nuclear power from abroad and at the same time shut down NPPs in Germany, as the federal government does."

PreussenElektra said dismantling would begin shortly. “Seven of our eight power plant blocks are now being dismantled. With the knowledge from these dismantling projects and our fleet-optimized approach, we ensure that the dismantling at the Essenbach site will be completed at the end of the 2030s and that the power plant site will be available for new uses,” said PreussenElektra CEO Guido Knott.

Site manager Carsten Müller is pleased that the approval process has now been completed and that the team can now concentrate on the dismantling of the second unit in addition to Isar 1. “We have prepared ourselves very intensively for this moment and will now devote ourselves completely to the dismantling of both units.” With a view to starting work at Isar 2, the dismantling strategy at the location was adjusted, adapting to the challenges ahead, including using the very efficient dismantling equipment at Isar 1, Müller explained.

Since the shutdown of Isar 2, all 193 fuel elements have been removed from the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) and placed in the fuel element storage basin. In addition, the primary cooling circuit was decontaminated at the beginning of this year. The first work will be dismantling in the area of the main coolant pumps. In addition, the main coolant lines will be separated from the RPV to enable dismantling of the RPV internals.

According to PreussenElektra, dismantling is progressing according to plan at Isar 1. Every year approximately 2,500 tonnes of material is dismantled and sent for disposal and around half of the dismantling of the systems has been completed. Once dismantling is completed, PreussenElektra will also develop new options for the site.

Image: Isar nuclear power plant (courtesy of PreussenElektra)

Date: Thursday, 28 March 2024
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