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RWE Power AG

Decommissioning activities at year-end: RWE implements legally mandated exit from coal and nuclear power

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  • Unit C at Gundremmingen nuclear power plant and three lignite units to close
  • Total capacity of affected power stations 2,200 megawatts

Essen/Cologne, 30 December 2021

On New Year’s Eve, as planned, RWE will take a total of 2,200 megawatts (MW) of power station capacity off the grid. One of the facilities to close is Unit C, a boiling water reactor accounting for about 1,300 MW and the last component remaining at Gundremmingen. In the Rhenish lignite mining region, the company is switching off its 300 MW units Neurath B, Niederaussem C und Weisweiler E. “This represents a further step in our rigorous efforts to implement the legally mandated phase-out of nuclear power and coal,” explains RWE Power CEO Dr Frank Weigand. The four power station units earmarked for closure have generated more than 400 billion kilowatt hours of electricity since they were commissioned. That is roughly equivalent to the electricity needs of Berlin, including all businesses and residential households, for a period of 90 years. This process is part of the legally mandated decommissioning roadmap, and the German Federal Network Agency has been notified accordingly.

“The fact these power station units have operated so reliably and safely and have made an important contribution to security of supply is down to the efforts of our skilled, experienced and motivated employees who have worked there over the years,” says Weigand, praising the power station teams. “They deserve our special respect and recognition.”

The next round of decommissioning activities will follow in 2022, beginning on 1 April when a further 300 MW unit at Neurath will be taken off the grid. At the end of that year, RWE Power will shut down the two 600 MW units at the same location, and end briquette production at its factory in Frechen. All in all, a further 1,620 MW in the lignite area will be decommissioned next year. The company will also shut down its Emsland nuclear power plant in Lingen (1,400 MW).

In December 2020, RWE already decommissioned Unit E at its Westfalen Power Station, representing 800 megawatts, and Ibbenbüren Power Station, also accounting for 800 MW. RWE thus no longer operates hard-coal power stations in the United Kingdom and Germany, while in the Netherlands, the coal-fired power stations operated by RWE are being converted to biomass. As set down in Germany’s Coal Phase-Out Act, RWE also shut down the first of its units in the Rhenish lignite mining region, with a generation capacity of 300 MW, at the end of 2020.

Between 2020 and 2022, RWE will thus decommission power stations with a combined capacity of more than 7,000 megawatts.

These shutdowns have huge repercussions for RWE’s employees: By the end of 2023, RWE Power will have cut job numbers in the Rhineland, covering the entire process chain from open-cast mining to maintenance, administration and power generation, by about 3,000. Employee numbers at the Gundremmingen nuclear power station will drop from about 600 at the start of 2017 to about 440 at the end of 2022; the remaining employees will continue working through to the 2030s on post-shutdown operations and deconstruction work at the location. The first step will be to remove the nuclear fuel rods from the reactor and transfer them to the holding basin. The employee cutbacks are being performed in line with principles of social responsibility, including payment of “adaptation allowances” in the lignite area.

Tomorrow’s lignite closures represent a further step in RWE’s carbon reduction strategy, which will enable it to save a further 7 million tonnes of CO<sub>2</sub> per year. At the same time, RWE is rigorously forging ahead with the expansion of renewables. By 2030, the company will have invested €50 billion gross in the expansion of renewables, batteries, storage systems, hydrogen and flexible back-up capacity.

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