End of an era: Grohnde nuclear power plant goes offline

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While elsewhere people will toast with champagne, many people at the Grohnde nuclear power plant will not feel like celebrating. The kiln on the banks of the Weser in the Hameln-Pyrmont district goes offline at the beginning of New Year’s Day. After almost 37 years, the power plant will come to an end. An era is coming to an end for employees, said Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister Olaf Lies (SPD) during a recent on-site visit. Nuclear power opponents have reason to be happy: On December 31, they want to watch the power plant shut down at a rally near the nuclear power plant.

“First and foremost, we are happy that Grohnde is finally going offline – even if we are facing 15 years of dismantling,” said Dieter Kölkebeck from the Anti-Nuclear Plenum Weserbergland (AAPW). He sees the shutdown of the power plant as a success of the anti-nuclear movement. “We will continue to keep a critical eye on the ball when it comes to dismantling and disposal,” he also announced. The stubbornness and perseverance of the critics paid off and in the end they would have won, wrote the association Broadcast, which co-organized the meeting of the opponents of nuclear power on December 31st as well as the AAPW.

The power plant block in Grohnde was considered to be one of the most powerful in the world. In the course of the nuclear phase-out, one kiln each in Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria will be switched off at the end of the year. When electricity production ends, the dismantling of the nuclear power plant begins in Grohnde. The reactor pressure vessel should be free of fuel elements by the end of March, as the power plant spokeswoman Maya Kushewa said. In addition, the coming weeks and months will be used to prepare for further dismantling and to clean components already. In addition, the energy supply is being converted because the power plant itself is no longer generating its own requirements.

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Of the last 300 employees at the power plant operator Preussenelektra, 239 people will still be working on the dismantling at the end of 2022, according to the spokeswoman. Germany’s exit from nuclear energy is right, said Environment Minister Lies. Regardless of this, the employees in Grohnde would have performed great in the operation of the nuclear power plant. Many employees have identified with the power plant and their work for years – the mood is accordingly not very euphoric, said the Ministry of the Environment. In the past few weeks, Preussenelektra had repeatedly projected messages of thanks for the workforce onto one of the two cooling towers.

The actual dismantling and demolition is to begin at the beginning of 2023, as soon as the corresponding permit has been received. “The first major dismantling project will be the dismantling of the reactor pressure vessel internals,” said Kushewa. The entire system will gradually be completely gutted – until only the outer walls are left. If these are not considered to be contaminated, they too would ultimately be demolished. The dismantling will take at least 15 years.

The population should therefore continue to be involved. Due to the pandemic, the exchange only takes place online. Britta Kellermann considers the procedure to be inadequate, however. The Green politician is a member of the “Switch off the Grohnde nuclear power plant regional conference”. The pure online integration, without the possibility of a personal discussion such as video conferencing, creates a lot of room for misunderstandings, she said.

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Unit C of the nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, Bavaria, has been in operation since March 1984. Block A was in operation from 1967 to 1977. Unit B, which went online in 1984, was shut down on December 31, 2017, and Unit C – also commissioned in 1984 – is to follow in 2021. (Image: kkw-gundremmingen.de)


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