A nuclear-power station is dismantled
The former Mülheim-Kärlich nuclear-power station is located in Rhineland-Palatinate, north of the town of Koblenz. The plant has been in the course of dismantling since the summer of 2004. This means that all technical facilities are being gradually removed from the reactor building, the turbine hall and other structures. In a next step, the vacant buildings – after careful checks – are released from the requirements of the Nuclear Energy Act, and the demolition of the concrete structure can take place.
Dismantling signed and sealed in nuclear-energy consensus
The decision to shut down and dismantle the Mülheim-Kärlich nuclear-power station is the result of an agreement on phasing out nuclear energy in Germany that was concluded on 14 June 2000 between the federal government of the time and the operators of nuclear-power stations.
Residual-electricity quantity for RWE Power AG
As consideration, RWE Power AG was conceded a residual-electricity quantity of 107 billion kWh. This is equivalent to the amount of electric energy that Mülheim-Kärlich would have been able to generate in roughly ten years. Originally, it was envisaged that this energy amount can additionally be produced at other nuclear-power stations.
A brief look back
The history of the Mülheim-Kärlich nuclear-power station is marked by numerous lawsuits: construction started in 1975, but the plant was not able to commence nuclear trial operations until 1986. Formal defects led to its shutdown in September 1988 after just 13 months of power operations. The subsequent legal dispute lasting several years showed that it was neither technical nor safety defects that led to the shutdown of the station.
Approval for shutdown in 2004
Following the decision in favour of the final shutdown and the dismantling of the station within the scope of the nuclear-energy consensus, RWE Power AG on 12 June 2001 filed a corresponding application with the approval authorities in charge. Backed by an in-depth public-hearing procedure, the Ministry for the Environment and Forestry in Rhineland-Palatinate on 16 July 2004 issued its approval for the shutdown and for the start of the initial dismantling phase of the Mülheim-Kärlich power plant.
At present, three approvals underlie the dismantling work: in the reactor building, some systems no longer needed, partly having slight radioactive contamination, may be disassembled. Plant sections outside the reactor building may also be dismantled. The third approval permitted an area of the terrain no longer required to be released from the constraints of the Nuclear Energy Act. Just under 80 RWE Power AG employees are engaged in the detailed planning and organization of the dismantling work. They are supported by approx. 120 people from various partner firms.
Dismantling still to take some years
When planning the dismantling work, RWE Power assumed that an interim-storage facility had to be erected at the Mülheim-Kärlich location. A final-storage facility for low- and medium-level waste was not yet available. In the meantime, the situation has changed: since 2007, there has been legal certainty for such a final-storage facility in the former Konrad iron ore mine near Salzgitter. Development work has started; initial storage there is scheduled for 2019.
For the dismantling of Mülheim-Kärlich this means that interim storage may be dispensed with if radioactive waste can be transported directly to the Konrad final-storage facility. Planning is geared toward this, and the application for an on-site interim-storage facility is dormant.
Since most of the dismantling work is currently taking place inside the reactor building, hardly anything is perceptible from outside. Miles of cable bundles, numerous pumps, containers, fittings, pipework and masses of insulating material have already been removed. Large amounts of these materials may be released after clean-up (decontamination) and test measurements, so that metals enter the reusable-waste cycle, while other materials are dumped.
In parallel, the turbine hall was gutted from summer 2010 to the start of 2012. At the end of March 2012, this work was completed, and the former turbine hall completely gutted.
99% of radioactivity hauled off in 2002
Left over will be radioactive waste amounting to 3,000 tons. Since this concerns low- and medium-level radioactive material, everything can be stored in the approved Konrad final-storage facility. As early as summer 2002, the last fuel elements – and, hence, 99% of the radioactive potential – were removed from the Mülheim-Kärlich plant.