Billion-euro nuclear shutdown in Germany

16 March 2011

The German government has declared a three-month moratorium on nuclear power, in which eight reactors will stay offline, checks will take place and nuclear policy may be reconsidered. 


Chancellor Angela Merkel decreed yesterday that the country's nuclear power reactors that began operation in 1980 or earlier should be immediately shut down. Those units closed yesterday and were joined by another unit already in long-term shutdown, making a total of 8336 MWe in generation offline under her direction.


A "period of reflection and action" is to follow for three months, said environment minister Norbert Röttgen, during which the units will undergo safety evaluations. At the same time the government will consider revising its 2009 decision to increase the generation allowances the plants hold.


The reaction within Germany has been mixed. Issuing a formal shutdown order would be legally very challenging for the government and some of the utility chiefs have announced they will undertake the shutdown voluntarily. Opposition parties are challenging Merkel's move to overrule valid legislation on nuclear lifetimes made law as recently as January.


Impact of shutdowns


The reactors affected are Biblis-A, Neckarwestheim 1, Brunsbuttel, Biblis-B, Isar 1, Unterweser, Phillipsburg 1. Already in a long-term shutdown is Krummel and this will be included despite starting in 1984.  


The units account for 8,336 MWe of generation capacity, around 41% of the country's total nuclear fleet and 6.4% of the country's total power plants. 


Nuclear power plants usually operate round the clock in a baseload role to provide about 25% of electricity, so the shutdowns could translate to about 10% of German power production. 


Excluding Krummel and assuming a 90% capacity factor for the rest, the amount of power production lost in three months could be over 13.7 TWh. 


Using the latest German power prices from the International Energy Agency, the market value of that power (including transmission etc) would be between €1.0 billion and €2.6 billion ($1.3 billion to $3.6 billion). 


The impact on the German government from loss of income via its unique nuclear fuel tax could be around €235 million ($328 million). 



In 2001 a Social Democrat/Green government limited nuclear power plant operating lives to an average of about 34 years. Reactors were given allotments of power they could generate, with the rule being that they must shut down when that had occurred.


This was revised last year by the current Christian Democrat / Free Democrat government with the effect of giving some reactors an extra eight years of operation and others an extra 12. In return, nuclear operators will pay a tax of €145 per gram of nuclear fuel used, to a total of about €2.3 billion ($3.2 billion) per year.


Researched and written 

by World Nuclear News