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Nuclear Plants WW Starting to Show Their Age

image credit: Bloomberg

The 2019 year-end news for nuclear WW has not been good.

Switzerland

Often mentioned as a nuclear success story Switzerland is shutting down a 47 year old nuclear plant.

The 47-year-old Mühleberg nuclear power plant, near Bern, was permanently switched off on Friday. This is the first of five Swiss nuclear power reactor to be decommissioned.

The plant will be completely decommissioned by 200 people over a 15-year period, starting on January 6, 2020. It is expected to cost CHF1.4 billion ($1.4 billion) to totally dismantle the plant and manage the radioactive waste.

Transport and Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga tweeted that the future belonged to local, clean energy from the water and the sun.

Switzerland’s government has said it would build no new nuclear reactors and decommission its existing plants at their end of their lifespan.

Sweden

At the end of the year, Ringhals 2 will shut down operations and stop supplying electricity to the Swedish power grid. The two Ringhals reactors that will shutdown in 2019/2020 are 45 years old.

The final shutdown of Ringhals 2 began back in September, when the plant went into a phase called coast down. This means that the reactor output falls as the energy in the fuel decreases. In November the output fell to below 50 per cent and one of the turbines was taken out of operation. On 30 December the other turbine will also be shut down and electricity generation will cease. 

The decision to close two reactors at Ringhals was taken in 2015. Reactor 2 is to close this year and reactor 1 next year, 2020, which means that the reactors will close five years earlier than originally planned.

South Korea

S. Korea to permanently shut down 2nd nuclear reactor. THe Wolsong-1 reactor that is closing is 37 years old.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission approved an application to permanently close the Wolsong-1 reactor in Gyeongju, about 370 km southeast of the capital Seoul. It followed the shutdown of the Kori-1 reactor in 2017.

The Wolsong-1 reactor started commercial operation in 1983, and its 30-year operational license was extended for 10 more years through 2022.

The early closure decision was made amid the falling operational rate and the growing maintenance costs for the decrepit reactor.

Under a long-term energy plan to lower dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power while using more sustainable energy sources, the South Korean government planned to retire 11 out of 24 nuclear reactors in the country by the end of 2030.

 

Currently there are 94 reactors WW that are 40 or older.  The number of reactors 40+ will explode over the next decade. With only 53 plants currently under construction - it is going to be tough for Nuclear generation WW to grow.

 

Joe Deely's picture

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Discussions

Ben Schultz's picture
Ben Schultz on Dec 29, 2019 4:49 am GMT

Closing down something as monumental as a nuclear reactor is not something that's taken lightly. Is 37–47 years a pretty typical lifespan for such reactors? What is the expected lifespan of such reactors? What about new ones? Nuclear enery is something I'm trying to learn more about, so thanks for your insights.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 29, 2019 7:00 am GMT

Ben, Gen-2 reactors are capable of lasting 80-100 years or longer. They're being shut down not by limitations of age, but by renewables and gas interests that want a piece of the electricity pie, in our post-2005 deregulated electricity market.

In simple terms, sales of fuel are where the big money is, and nuclear reactors, which are refueled once every 18 months, don't burn enough of it. Joe knows that renewables require burning lots of fossil-fuel gas, and apparently believes cashing in now at the expense of the environment is worth it. I don't.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 29, 2019 8:32 pm GMT

Ben,

 What is the expected lifespan of such reactors? 

If you look at the chart near end of article you will see that current record for oldest plant is 50.  Below are 4 other plants ( and ages) shutdown in 2019 that I did not mention in the article

  • Chinsan-2 -  41 years
  • Genkai-2 - 39 years
  • Pilgrim-1 - 47 years
  • ThreeMile Island-1 - 45 years

 

Also, keep in mind there is a difference between how long something can survive vs how long it can run economically. So, for example in Spain, when analyzing when to close older plants - a maximum amount of $spend was agreed upon by plant owners.

Power firms agree on route to close Spain's oldest nuclear plant

A disagreement between Almaraz’s owners, Iberdrola, Endesa and Naturgy, over how much to invest to keep the plant running rumbled on close to a March 31 licence renewal deadline, putting the plant at risk of an earlier closure. 

The firms will now apply to keep the site’s two reactors running until 2027 and 2028 respectively, on condition they will spend no more than 600 million euros on them, three sources with knowledge of the talks said.

Note: these two reactors will be 46 and 45 years old when they retire.

The Almaraz plant in Western Spain is the first nuclear reactor slated for closure in a calendar which foresees all seven in the country going offline between 2027 and 2035.

The oldest plant in Spain would be 50 by 2035.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 30, 2019 4:50 pm GMT

I missed the below 2019 closure...  I think that makes 8 closures for the year. 

Germany Takes Nuclear Plant Offline, Final Six to Close Over Two Years

 Germany will take another step towards completing its withdrawal from nuclear power when EnBW pulls the plug on the Philippsburg 2 power station on New Year's Eve, leaving half a dozen plants still to close over the next two years.

This plant was 35 years old.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 29, 2019 7:01 am GMT

Typical, Joe. You say, "Nuclear Plants WW Are Starting to Show Their Age," then present no evidence one of those plants doesn't function as well as the day they went online. Consistently maintained and updated, most are more efficient, even generating more than their rated capacity factor. Has that ever happened at a solar farm or a wind farm? Didn't think so.

As much as you'd like to think so, no - South Korea is not shutting down nuclear capacity, but replacing small reactors with newer, more powerful ones - 14 GW of walk-away-safe, carbon-free capacity since Wolsong went online in 1997. Shin-Kori 4, a massive 1.4 GW powerhouse that came online in September, is already generating more clean energy each month than the 9 square miles of solar panels at Topaz can generate in an entire year. And it even works at night!

That in desperation you're forced to resort to these weak talking points is heartening. As the Nuclear Renaissance gains momentum, antinuclear activists and their gas-fired BFFs are recognizing nuclear is a clean, reliable source of energy with the capability to put them both out of business. It's just a matter of time, isn't it? I thought so.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 29, 2019 8:42 pm GMT

Bob,

then present no evidence one of those plants doesn't function as well as the day they went online.

I had a quote in my article that used the word "decrepit" in describing the Korean plant that is closing.  How is that "no evidence"?

        "The early closure decision was made amid the falling operational rate and the growing maintenance costs for the decrepit reactor."

You can look up the specific operational details here.  Evidence.

More evidence. Here is a comment about Swedish plant closing:

Ringhals 2 was put into commercial operation in 1975, and ever since then has led an eventful life, with both ups and downs. Among other things, the plant has had its steam generators and control room replaced, survived a fire and had the bottom plate of its reactor containment renovated

You can look up operational data here.

Good to hear that Korea is replacing older, smaller  reactors with newer ones. But doesn't that just reinforce my point that older reactors are shutting down.  If, as you say, these reactors can easily run till they are 80-100 years old if properly maintained - why are they being replaced? Why not just keep them and add new plants as well.  You are proving my point.

From linked Korea article:

Under a long-term energy plan to lower dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power while using more sustainable energy sources, the South Korean government planned to retire 11 out of 24 nuclear reactors in the country by the end of 2030.

You said:

even generating more than their rated capacity factor. Has that ever happened at a solar farm or a wind farm? Didn't think so.

Happens all the time... where have you been? Companies are building entire businesses around repowering wind and solar. Plus now they are throing in storage as well.

Example 1

The Public Service Commission has okayed the re-power plan. Under it, Ashtabula Wind will replace existing turbines with newer, more power-generating models, that will increase its capacity from 148.5 megawatts to 160.4 megawatts. The turbine blades will also be larger.

Example 2

Completion and operation of the Summit Wind Project is planned for late 2020. The repowering project will replace 569 one-hundred-kilowatt turbines with 23 modern turbines.

Example 3 - Solar

OCI Solar power has repowered a portion of their 39.2MWac / 49.4MWdc Alamo 1 solar power plant located in Bexar County, Texas. The plant has been upgraded to Array Technologies trackers and bifacial solar modules. Existing inverters, manufactured by Kaco New Energy, concrete foundations, and balance of system gear were left in place.

And now, a $20 billion revenue stream is arising – upgrades of racking, inverters, and solar modules via the process of repowering these plants – that seeks to maximize the amount of electricity that can be delivered through already existing interconnection approvals.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 30, 2019 12:08 am GMT

Joe, you call the unsupported claims of anti-nuclear journalist "evidence"? His claims, like yours, are supported by nothing more than antinuclear fairy tales invented to shut those scary nuclear plants down as quickly as possible. More annoying noise from the renewables echo chamber.

You needn't waste time regaling me Ouija-Board predictions for the future, they'll be ignored. And don't show me solar/wind which has been "replaced" or "repowered" either, or I might ask why  growing maintenance costs and failing operation rates for 569 decrepit wind turbines doesn't show "Wind/Solar Farms WW Are Showing Their Age."

Sound familiar?

Or I might ask what the decommissioning costs will be for proper removal / disposal of those wind turbines, and the cadmium in the trashed solar panels (cadmium, unlike spent nuclear fuel, remains poisonous forever). I would ask whether renewables developers have come up with a permanent waste repository for their cadmium, or any decommissioning schedule for their wind turbines, but I suspect the answer would be "there isn't one" - wouldn't it?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 30, 2019 2:03 am GMT

Love it Bob.

Your assertion that operational data from the IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency - are actually unsupported claims from some anti-nuclear journalist. Priceless.
 

Also, as you say plenty of wind farms are showing their age. No doubt about it. Technology has Improved tremendously since early turbines were installed.   Prime wind locations with pre-existing interconnections - repowering is a great business model. Cheap and easy.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 30, 2019 6:38 am GMT

"The early closure decision was made amid the falling operational rate and the growing maintenance costs for the decrepit reactor."

You cited unsupported claims from some anti-nuclear journalist, Joe, whining about some imaginary "decrepit" reactor. Just because antinukes accept each other's word as gospel truth, you really think anyone else does?

"...Repowering is a great business model. Cheap and easy."

Of course repowering is cheap and easy when you leave all your toxic leftovers rusting in the desert. Or did Ashtabula, Summit, and Alamo make plans to dispose of their waste, like nuclear engineers do? Hmm?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 30, 2019 5:09 pm GMT

You cited unsupported claims from some anti-nuclear journalist, Joe, whining about some imaginary "decrepit" reactor.

Bob, I provided the operational data for this specific reactor. ZERO hours of operation for 4 of the last 9 years and partial shutdowns for the other 5 years. "Decrepit" seems like a mild adjective to me.  Also, are you now saying that Wolsong-1 is an imaginary reactor?

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