Germany settles with utilities over nuclear phaseout

March 15, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

RWE’s Gundremmingen nuclear plant, located in Bavaria, is slated to close at the end of the year. Photo: Wikipedia/Felix König

After years of litigation, Germany has reached an agreement with four utility companies on compensation for losses incurred as a result of the government’s stunning decision in 2011 to abandon nuclear power. In March of that year, only days after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a 180-degree reversal in the country’s energy policy, which had been one of support for nuclear power. Eight units were shut down immediately, and by May 2011 the government had announced a plan to close all nuclear power plants by 2022.

The companies will receive a total of €2.4 billion (about $2.85 billion), with €1.4 billion going to Sweden-based Vattenfall and the remaining €1 billion split between German utilities RWE (€880 million), EnBW (€80 million), and E.ON (€42.5 million). In return, the companies have agreed to terminate all phaseout-related legal disputes with the government.

Making the best of it: “This is a conservative implementation of the court decisions in Germany that in the end is acceptable to us,” said Anna Borg, Vattenfall’s president and chief executive officer. “We welcome the envisaged agreement, as it puts an end to many years of costly and time-consuming disputes around the German nuclear phaseout. Germany is an important market to us, and we will now focus on moving forward with our plans to phase out fossil fuels and continue to invest in climate-friendly heating and renewable energy production.”

The fading fleet: Prior to the Fukushima accident, Germany obtained about one-quarter of its electricity from 17 nuclear power reactors. There are now six units left in operation: EnBW’s Neckarwestheim, a 1,310-MWe pressurized water reactor; E.ON’s Brokdorf, a 1,410-MWe PWR; Grohnde, a 1,360-MWe PWR; and Isar, a 1,410-MWe PWR; and RWE’s Emsland, a 1,335-MWe PWR; and Gundremmingen, a 1,288-MWe boiling water reactor.

Brokdorf, Grohnde, and Gundremmingen are scheduled to close later this year, with Emsland, Isar, and Neckarwestheim to follow in 2022.

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