Which nuclear power plants should stay on the grid longer?
NThere are still three nuclear power plants in operation in Germany. The nuclear power plants Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim in Baden-Württemberg are expected to be kept connected to the power grid as an operational reserve until spring 2023. The third reactor in Emsland, which is still active, is not intended to be part of this emergency reserve and is to be shut down as planned on December 31st.
What does reserve mode mean?
The two power plants will be shut down as planned at the end of this year. However, they are not yet being taken off the power grid, but are kept ready as reserve power plants. Although they do not produce any electricity, they can be restarted at any time. In concrete terms, this means that reactors will continue to be cooled, safety checks will take place and the employees will continue to be on duty. Should an emergency occur, the power plants can continue to produce electricity until April 15, 2023.
How does the reboot work?
You can’t just turn it on and off. Restarting a nuclear power plant that has been shut down takes between two days and a week. For the Isar 2 nuclear power plant, this means, according to the operator PreussenElektra, that after appropriate preparation, the plant will promptly go into a brief shutdown in order to carry out an inspection of the pressurizer pilot valves. After restarting, the nuclear power plant can continue to run with the existing reactor core until March 2023.
According to EnBW, the operator of the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant, the reactor core of the plant will be reassembled with already existing, partially used fuel elements. According to Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens), new fuel rods should not be purchased for reserve operation.
The reactor in Neckarwestheim could produce up to 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity after restarting. This roughly corresponds to the electricity consumption of private households in a German city with one million inhabitants in one year.
When will it be decided whether the nuclear power plants will be needed in 2023?
The decision should be made by early December at the latest.
What does that mean for the operators?
Of course, the continued operation of the power plants costs money. Should the power plants actually be used again to produce electricity, the costs would be offset by the sale of electricity. The EnBW company has committed itself to investing any profits in energy transition measures. If the reserve is not required or if the costs incurred cannot be covered by the revenue from the operation, the state compensates for losses.
Why is reserve operation even being discussed?
Habeck justified his decision with the tense situation on the French electricity market. More than half of the nuclear power plants there are not connected to the grid, so there is a lack of electricity, which Germany compensates for in part with electricity from gas-fired power plants. After the end of routine maintenance work, many nuclear power plants will probably go online.
What are the reactions to Habeck’s suggestion?
The Greens support Habeck’s plans, but emphasize that it is not a matter of extending the term. The reserve operation does not mean a departure from the nuclear phase-out.
The FDP’s plans don’t go far enough. In view of an impending energy crisis in winter, she, like the opposition CDU/CSU parliamentary group, is demanding an extension of the runtimes of all three nuclear power plants. FDP faction leader Christian Dürr called Habeck’s decision a “right step”. On Twitter, however, he emphasized: “Now we also need a real runtime extension, because every kilowatt hour counts.” Emsland also had to remain connected to the grid, and new fuel rods had to be ordered for it.
Criticism comes from environmentalists. “It is and remains nonsense in terms of energy policy to undermine the statutory nuclear phase-out on December 31, 2022,” said nuclear expert Heinz Smital from Greenpeace. “The lack of electricity in France due to the shutdown of numerous nuclear power plants shows how unreliable nuclear energy is. There is also the risk of catastrophic nuclear accidents.”
Olaf Bandt, Chairman of the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), made a similar statement: “The stress test showed that the continued operation of German nuclear power plants will not qualitatively improve energy security either in Germany or in France.” Nuclear power plants mean “a permanent security risk”. .