Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant: Unit II finally disconnected from electricity grid
Neckarwestheim. Unit II of the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant (GKN II) was finally disconnected from the electricity grid at around 11:59 pm last night (15 April 2023). EnBW has thus complied with the requirements under the Atomic Energy Act within the specified time limit. The shutdown process proceeded technically according to plan and without incident. In the coming weeks, EnBW will begin the initial preparatory work for dismantling the unit. The necessary licence has already been issued.
GKN II is a pressurized water reactor with an electrical output of 1,400 megawatts (MW). It fed electricity into the public grid for the first time on 3 January 1989. At around 11 billion kilowatt-hours per year, the unit has generated a total of over 375 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in its 34 years of operation. GKN II met about one-sixth of total electricity demand and about two-thirds of private household electricity demand in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
The final shutdown of GKN II was a standard technical process comparable to previous shutdowns prior to annual inspections. During shutdown, the reactor power level was continuously reduced by gradually inserting what are known as control rods into the reactor core. After lowering the reactor power level in this way, the unit was disconnected from the public electricity grid at around 11:59 pm.
Germany’s Atomic Energy Act originally stipulated that GKN II would be shut down no later than 31 December 2022. At the end of 2022, however, the German government initiated a short-term extension of electricity generation in order to secure the country’s electricity supply. The legislative amendment entered into force in December. EnBW then ensured in a short shutdown of GKN II that the residual energy content of the remaining fuel assemblies could be optimally utilized. As a result, GKN II was still able to produce a total of over 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2023.
“We would like to express our gratitude to the employees at the Neckarwestheim site for their unwavering commitment to the safety of the nuclear power plant, which in turn has ensured a safe and reliable supply of electricity in Baden-Württemberg. In recent months, they have once again demonstrated their expertise and professionalism by responding to the government’s request to extend electricity generation at short notice. This accomplishment commands the utmost respect,” said Jörg Michels, Managing Director of EnBW’s nuclear power subsidiary. “Our employees at the three Neckarwestheim, Philippsburg and Obrigheim nuclear power sites have ensured safe electricity generation at all times over the past 55 years. With the shutdown of GKN II, our focus will now shift to dismantling the fifth and final plant. We are pleased to be tackling this challenge with our experienced and capable employees, to whom we are consequently able to offer attractive job prospects following the end of electricity generation.”
EnBW established an extensive and all-encompassing strategy for decommissioning its nuclear power plants in 2012 and created a corresponding master plan, which has been consistently implemented in the intervening years. Consequently, EnBW became the first operator in Germany to obtain all necessary licenses for the dismantling of its nuclear power plants. EnBW is also unique among German operators in having obtained dismantling licenses for two plants prior to their final shutdown – one of which is GKN II. On the basis of the dismantling licenses, EnBW has made significant progress in recent years in dismantling the Obrigheim nuclear power plant (KWO), Units 1 and 2 of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant (KKP 1 and KKP 2) and Unit I of Neckarwestheim (GKN I).
The dismantling plan for GKN II was heavily impacted by the extension of electricity generation initiated by the German government and needs to be revised. Even though delays compared to the original schedule are likely, EnBW currently continues to expect that the dismantling of GKN II in accordance with atomic energy law will take around ten to 15 years. For further information, please refer to the EnBW press release dated 5 April 2023.
The GKN I unit (in service generating electricity from 1976 to 2011) and the GKN II unit (1989 to 2023) are located on an approximately 400,000 square meter site that spans the boundary between the communities of Neckarwestheim and Gemmrigheim. Over a period of 47 years, the two units at the Neckarwestheim site have jointly generated a gross total of over 576 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. GKN I has been undergoing dismantling since 2017, and preparatory work for dismantling GKN II will commence in the coming weeks. Around 650 EnBW employees currently work at the Neckarwestheim site.