27 December 2019

48‑Year‑Old Swiss Reactor Mühleberg Closed

WNISR, 27 December 2019

After 48 years in operation, the Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant (KKM) in Switzerland was closed on 20 December 2019. This leaves the country with four operating reactors.

As reported in WNISR2019, in October 2013, Mühleberg operator BKW announced that it would close the 373 MW Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) in 2019, due to “indefinable and unquantifiable… technical, economic and political uncertainties [that] could increase the economic risks of long-term operation.”

A Study by the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES)released on the closure day analyses the decision-making process in the framework of the power market developments. BKW owns Mühleberg entirely, and only has a minority share in the Leibstadt reactor. The Fukushima disaster was a major turning point for the utility, and expensive and lengthy backfitting work was considered too risky.

On 20 June 2018, the Federal Energy Department issued the formal closure decision and granted a general decommissioning license. It will be the first ever decommissioning of a commercial power reactor in Switzerland and is planned to take about 15 years, concluding in 2034. According to BKW, the costs for decommissioning and disposal total CHF3 billion (US$3.3 billion) 80 percent of which are already covered. The remaining 20 percent are scheduled to be incurred only by 2126 and will be covered by further fund contributions and plant yields.

On 21 May 2017, 58 percent of Swiss voters adopted the Energy Strategy 2050 that provides a long-term policy framework based on the dynamic development of energy efficiency and renewable energies. The strategy does not fix any closure dates for nuclear power plants and aims to keep the existing reactors operating “as long as they are safe”. However, it prohibits the construction of new nuclear power plants and the reprocessing of spent fuel. The “totally revised energy legislation” was adopted by the Swiss parliament on 1 November 2017 and entered into force on 1 January 2018.