E.ON Has Shut Down Grafenrheinfeld Nuclear Power Plant – Before 31 December 2015 Legal Deadline

On Saturday 27 June 2015 at 23:59 p.m. E.ON shut down its nuclear power plant in Grafenrheinfeld in Bavaria. This was more than six months before the company was required to do so pursuant to the 2011 amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) that mandates a complete nuclear phase-out in Germany by the end of 2022.

The closure of the 1,345 MW plant went smoothly, ending 33 years of successful power generation in Grafenrheinfeld, E.ON said. According to E.ON, the plant provided 11.5% of the energy consumed in Bavaria and also provided operating reserve on more than 200 days a year to balance the intermittent input of renewable energies into the grids.

In March this year E.ON officially announced the closure ahead of the deadline for decommissioning the plant, which is 31 December 2015 (cf. Section 7 para. 1a no. 2 AtG). The reason was said to be unprofitability of the plant that was subject to the so-called nuclear fuel rod tax. The tax was introduced in 2010 when Germany briefly decided to extend the operating times of the German nuclear power plants that were supposed to act as a bridging technology until renewables are able to cover the bulk of demand by 2050. When the German government reversed its nuclear policy in 2011 it proposed comprehensive legislative changes, including a nuclear phase-out until 2022 and the immediate shut down of eight nuclear power plants. While the anticipated additional profits therefore fell away, the nuclear fuel rod tax was, however, not abolished. E.ON took legal action at the European Court of Justice as well as at the German courts against the nuclear fuel rod tax, yet did not prevail so far (for more information, please see here).

Like other major utilities, E.ON has been strongly affected by the 2011 decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and the growing amount of supported renewable power, which has to be transmitted with priority in German grids pursuant to the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG; cf. Section 11 para. 1 EEG). In April E.ON announced to split into a “New E.ON” and a company to be called “Uniper”. New E.ON will focus on renewables, energy networks, and customer solutions, while Uniper will operate the conventional power business, energy trading and exploration and production (for more information, please see here).

If and to what extent the earlier closure of the Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant will put the tense grid situation to a test, in particular if E.ON also closes down its modern gas-fired power plant units in Irsching as it intends to do, remains to be seen. As the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) recently said, it is time that the government decides about a new electricity market design that ensures the security of supply in a market influenced more and more by renewable energy sources.

Source: E.ON

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