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Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant: EnBW issued with license for dismantling of Unit II

EnBW is the first operator in Germany to obtain all licenses for the dismantling of its nuclear power plants
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Neckarwestheim. EnBW has reached a further key milestone in implementation of its master plan for the dismantling of its nuclear power plants. Today (5 April 2023), the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment granted EnBW the license for the decommissioning and dismantling of Unit II of Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant (GKN II). This means that all parts of the dismantling program for the fifth and final nuclear power plant in Baden-Württemberg are now approved under atomic energy law. EnBW has already achieved this status for Neckarwestheim Unit I (GKN I), the Obrigheim nuclear power plant (KWO) and Units 1 and 2 of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant (KKP 1 and KKP 2).

This makes EnBW 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. It achieved this for the first time for KKP 2 in 2019 and has now repeated it for GKN II.

For the sake of clarity, the license now granted has no effect on the final shutdown of GKN II. Its shutdown no later than 15 April 2023 is stipulated by law and does not require a license.

Strong signal for implementation of the energy transition

“Today’s issuance of the dismantling license for GKN II not only marks a significant milestone for the Neckarwestheim site, but also underscores EnBW’s commitment to the energy transition. Our dismantling master plan, which we established more than ten years ago, is aimed among other things at ensuring the safe and efficient dismantling of our nuclear power plants. As dismantling requires a license, our strategy was geared to obtaining the licenses needed. Now we are the first operator in Germany to have all the necessary licenses. We are very proud of this and would like to thank all our colleagues who have made this possible with their many years of hard work,” said Jörg Michels, Managing Director of EnBW’s nuclear power subsidiary. “Meanwhile, the dismantling of our other four nuclear power plants – including Neckarwestheim Unit I – is progressing well, and in some cases is already at an advanced stage.”

Extended power generation impacted dismantling schedule but general plan unaltered

EnBW has been planning for the implementation phase of the dismantling of GKN II for many years. In line with the legal framework established in 2011, this was always based on a shutdown at the end of 2022. However, the existing plans were heavily impacted by the extension of electricity generation from nuclear power (including at GKN II) decided at short notice by the German government in late 2022. With process of revising the planning still underway, it is not yet possible to state the final impact. However, the general plan for the dismantling of GKN is unaltered and was part of the application documents submitted to obtain the dismantling license.

Dismantling to take around ten to 15 years

The initial steps of the dismantling process following the shutdown of GKN II have also already been determined in principle. Issuance of the decommissioning and dismantling license will initially be followed by further formal steps. Thus, after the shutdown, the new operating procedures required for what is known as “residual operation” will be put into effect and the license officially taken up. Official clearance is then needed for the detailed description of the first individual dismantling projects. Only then will it be possible to begin preparing for the dismantling work itself. The plant’s primary circuit will be decontaminated. Individual, specified systems can be isolated and taken out of service. The actual dismantling process then starts with the dismantling of the main coolant lines. Another initial work area will be the disassembly of the reactor pressure vessel internals. EnBW currently continues to expect that the dismantling of GKN II in accordance with atomic energy law will take around ten to 15 years.

Public consulted in licensing process

Even before applying for the decommissioning and dismantling license for GKN II, EnBW conducted an early public consultation process between November 2015 and February 2016. The public input of relevance to the application received during that consultation process was then taken into account in EnBW’s application. Following submission of the application, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment then conducted a further public consultation with the participation of EnBW in 2018. This consultation concluded with a hearing in November 2018.

GKN II is a pressurized water reactor with an electrical output of 1,400 megawatts. It went into operation in 1989 and produced over eleven billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2022. Electricity generation will cease no later than 15 April 2023. The other unit at the Neckarwestheim site, GKN I, was permanently shut down in 2011 and has been in the process of dismantling since 2017.

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