atomic transition times
July 29, 2022
In the debate on extending the life of the remaining nuclear power plants, the BUND study sees safety risks if they continue to operate. On the other hand, TÜV is even considering reactivating decommissioned reactors.
The issue of safety, hitherto overlooked when it comes to extending the operating time of a nuclear power plant, is increasingly being debated – especially as politicians from the FDP and the EU are no longer just aiming for an “extended operation” with limited capacity until next spring, but for working times until 2024 and possibly later.
According to the study presented on Thursday, the continuation of the operation of the three nuclear power plants, which will still be connected to the grid from January 2023, will not be eligible for approval. The study was commissioned by the environmental association BUND.
The crux of the criticism is that the three blocks of the Emsland, Neckarwestheim 2 and Isar 2 nuclear power plants have not been extensively screened for safety in 13 years. The last “Periodic Safety Audit” (PSÜ), which should actually take place at least every ten years, was in 2009 based on the safety requirements of the 1980s.
The resignation from the last PSR was granted to nuclear power plant operators only as part of the withdrawal from nuclear power plants on the condition of shutting down the reactors by the end of 2022 at the latest.
Study author Oda Becker, a physicist and expert on nuclear hazards, said: “It is technically unthinkable for a nuclear regulator to approve a lifetime extension without comprehensive safety checks.” The safe operation of reactors in accordance with the current state of science and technology cannot be guaranteed.
Becker stressed that even operators stated that “it would only be possible to continue work for a short time if safety testing requirements were significantly reduced or if no major modernization was carried out.”
The managing director of the TÜV association, Joachim Bühler, has no concerns about safety. It even considers it safe to restart the Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C nuclear power plants, which were recently shut down. Reactors, which will be shut down in 2021, could be restarted in weeks or months. The three nuclear power plants are “in a safe state that would allow them to be reconnected to the grid,” he said in an interview.
Warnings about the phantom debate
The president of BUND, Olaf Bandt, called the continuing activities populist. “Nuclear power is dangerous, unprofitable and unnecessary,” he said. Anyone who, in the face of looming gas bottlenecks, says that a warm winter can only be made possible by nuclear energy is leading a false debate and calculating the efficiency of nuclear power plants.
According to Batt, nuclear energy, with an approximately 1% share in final energy consumption, will not play a significant role in energy supply in the short or medium term. Both the opposition and the ruling parties are in the process of recklessly abandoning the withdrawal from the nuclear power plant, which was supported by a broad consensus in 2011 after Fukushima.
CDU leader Friedrich Merz asked the federal government to immediately order new fuel rods for three nuclear power plants. Temporary “extended work” with hitherto used fuel elements is not enough. “We need to allow operations to continue until the bottleneck risk is eliminated,” said Merz. The time to order new fuel rods is running out. According to the operator of the nuclear power plant, it takes at least a year from ordering to delivery.
The FDP is also considering going beyond the stretching operation. Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner said that due to the energy crisis it is quite possible that Germany will have to resort to nuclear energy for a long time. “It’s not for many years, but we may have to get used to the idea that we will still need nuclear power in 2024,” he said.
FDP energy politician Michael Kruse called on the federal government and nuclear power plant operators to come to a “nuclear power summit” to clarify the safety and sequencing of fuel elements. He introduced maturities into the game until the spring of 2024.
Bavarian Economy Minister Hubert Aiwanger (Free Voters) recently called for a restart of the closed Gundremmingen C reactor near Augsburg. “We need a Gundremmingen to ensure security of electricity supply and to save gas,” said Aiwanger.
Both the operator of the RWE nuclear power plant and the starost of Günzburg, Hans Reichhart, strongly disagreed. According to the CSU County Governor, Aiwanger is having a “phantom discussion” that is not helping.