Dutch state could buy share in Borssele plant

05 June 2024

The government of the Netherlands has said it will consider acquiring a stake in the Borssele nuclear power plant should a decision be made to extend the operation of the single-unit plant beyond 2033.

Borssele (Image: EPZ)

In December 2021, the Netherlands' coalition government placed nuclear power at the heart of its climate and energy policy. Some EUR500 million (USD529 million) was earmarked to support new nuclear build in the period to 2025. It anticipated that cumulative support for new nuclear would reach EUR5 billion by 2030, while not assuming any new power plants would be online by that time.

In December 2022, the Dutch Council of Ministers designated the existing Borssele site as the preferred location for two new reactors. It has also called for a feasibility study into extending the operation of the existing Borssele plant beyond 2033.

The new coalition government - elected in November last year - has now said it is investigating with the operator and shareholders of the plant what is needed to make its extended operation possible. The government said it has made a subsidy available "to investigate whether it is technically feasible and safe to keep the nuclear power plant in production for longer".

It noted that in addition to the various feasibility studies, the Nuclear Energy Act, among other things, must be amended. To this end, the government will first conduct research into the environmental effects of the extension of the operating life. In addition, the owner must apply for a permit to keep the plant open for longer from the independent supervisory authority, the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection.

Currently, the Borssele plant is 70% owned by the Zeeuwse Energie Houdstermaatschappij (ZEH), which is owned by decentralised authorities such as the province of Zeeland and various municipalities in Zeeland. The remaining 30% is owned by German utility RWE.

The cabinet has decided that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy will start exploratory discussions about a possible share transfer, "under certain conditions".

"The central government only sees the purchase of the shares as an option if it gives it decisive control over keeping the nuclear power plant open for longer, provided that this can be done safely," the government said.

"The authorities involved will not yet make a final decision on a possible takeover of the shares by the state. The exploratory discussions are aimed at investigating the potential for reaching an agreement. After completion of the exploratory discussions, the government will inform the House of Representatives about the next steps to be taken."

The 482 MWe (net) pressurised water reactor at Borssele - operated by EPZ - has been in operation since 1973 and is scheduled to close in 2033. It accounts for about 3% of the country's total electricity generation.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News