End of an era: the Grohnde nuclear power plant goes offline


While elsewhere people clink glasses with champagne, many people at the Grohnde nuclear power plant will not feel like partying. The oven on the banks of the Weser in the Hameln-Pyrmont district goes offline at the start of New Year’s Day. After nearly 37 years, the plant will come to an end. An era is drawing to a close for employees, Lower Saxony Environment Minister Olaf Lies (SPD) said during a recent on-site visit. Opponents of nuclear energy have reason to be happy: on December 31, they want to see the plant shut down during a rally near the nuclear plant.

“Above all, we are happy that Grohnde is finally offline, even though we are facing 15 years of decommissioning,” said Dieter Kölkebeck of the Anti-Nuclear Plenum Weserbergland (AAPW). He considers the closure of the 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, writes the Broadcast association, which co-organized the meeting of nuclear opponents on December 31 as well as the AAPW.

The Grohnde power station block was considered one of the most powerful in the world. During the nuclear phase-out, one furnace each in Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria will be turned off at the end of the year. When electricity production stops, dismantling of the nuclear power plant begins in Grohnde. The reactor vessel is expected to be free of fuel elements by the end of March, power plant spokeswoman Maya Kushewa said. In addition, the weeks and months to come will be used to prepare for further disassembly and already clean the components. In addition, the energy supply is being converted because the plant itself no longer generates its own needs.

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

The actual dismantling and demolition must begin in early 2023, upon receipt of the corresponding permit. “The first major decommissioning project will be the dismantling of the reactor pressure vessel internals,” Kushewa said. The whole system will gradually be completely emptied – until only the outer walls remain. If these are not considered contaminated, they too will ultimately be demolished. Dismantling will take at least 15 years.

The population must therefore continue to be involved. Due to the pandemic, the exchange is only done online. Britta Kellermann considers the procedure insufficient, however. The green politician is a member of the regional conference “Turn off the Grohnde nuclear power plant”. Pure online integration, without the possibility of personal discussion such as video conferencing, creates a lot of room for misunderstandings, she said.

Unit C at the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant in Bavaria has been in service since March 1984. Block A operated from 1967 to 1977. Unit B, commissioned in 1984, was closed on December 31, 2017, and Unit C – also ordered in 1984 – will follow in 2021. (Image: kkw-gundremmingen.de)


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