TECH Germany begins to dismantle Neckarwestheim II reactor


Germany begins to dismantle Neckarwestheim II reactor


13:33, May 24, 2023

Dismantled parts lie on the floor at the block II of the Neckarwestheim Nuclear Power Plant, Baden-W'rttemberg, Germany, May 22, 2023. (Photo: CFP)

Germany has begun to dismantle block II of the Neckarwestheim Nuclear Power Plant, which was shut down last month, as the country enacts its plan for fully-renewable electricity generation by 2035.

China Media Group reported on Wednesday that a total of 665 fuel rods in the reactor are to be cooled down and removed safely. It is estimated to take 15 to 20 years and cost 9 billion euros to complete the dismantling of the nuclear power plant.

Following years of prevaricating, Germany pledged to quit nuclear power definitively after Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster sent radiation spewing into the air, terrifying the world.

But the final wind-down was delayed until this year after the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out. Prices soared and there were fears of energy shortages around the world – but now Germany is confident again about gas supplies and the expansion of renewables.

Germany's commercial nuclear sector began with the commissioning of the Kahl reactor in 1961, eagerly promoted by politicians but met with skepticism by companies.

In the next decade, a coalition government including the Greens – who grew out of the 1970s anti-nuclear movement – introduced a law that would have led to a phase-out of all reactors by about 2021.

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative-led governments went back and forth on that – until Fukushima.

The last three plants – Isar II, Emsland, and Neckarwestheim II reactors – contributed only around 5 percent of electricity production in Germany in the first three months of the year, according to the economy ministry.

Nuclear power made up just 6 percent of Germany's energy production last year, compared to 44 percent from renewables, data by the federal statistics office showed.

Still, two-thirds of Germans favor extending the lifespan of reactors or connecting old plants back to the grid, with only 28 percent backing the phase-out, a survey by the Forsa Institute showed in April.

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