Switzerland: The first NPP is to be shut down in 2019
Muehleberg NPP
Muehleberg NPP (© ENSI)
Muehleberg will be the first Swiss nuclear power plant to shut down. Swiss energy company BKW has decided to close its facility in the region of Berne earlier than planned already in 2019, due to financial reasons. Switzerland's nuclear regulatory authority ENSI obliges BKW to submit specific plans for the safety of the power plant through 2019 and for the decommissioning.

 "The shortened duration of operation does not discharge the Muehleberg operator from its duty to continue investing in the safety of the nuclear power plant ", Hans Wanner, Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) said.

ENSI has not yet given its official consent to the end of operation of Muehleberg for 2019. It requires a number of backfitting measures to continue enhancing the safety of the facility; particularly in the areas of the cooling water supply, the cooling system for the spent fuel  pool and the core shroud. The formal order of ENSI of 14 November 2013 aims to ensure that the Muehleberg NPP meetsthe necessary safety margins until the last day of its operation.

BKW 's decision to shut down its facility Muehleberg in 2019 changes a previous plan to continue operating for a longer period.  ENSI had demanded extensive backfitting measures for the unlimited long-term operation.

"Investing in the plant's long-term operation would have entailed high costs. The amortisation would have been too uncertain given the prevailing economic, regulatory and political conditions, " BKW said in a statement after the decision to shut down Muehleberg in 2019.

Muehleberg's premature shutdown follows a heated debate in Switzerland over the plant's fate, after the Swiss government had decided to phase out of nuclear energy after the Fukushima accident in March 2011. However, no exact shut down dates were defined  for the individual reactors. The nuclear power plants can be operated "as long as they are safe". Muehleberg is now the first plant for which a specific date of shutdown is presented.

Switzerland currently has five nuclear reactors in operation. They produce about 40 per cent of the country's electrical energy: Beznau I (commissioned in 1969), Beznau II (1972) , Muehleberg (1972), Gösgen (1978) and Leibstadt (1984).

All Swiss reactors currently meet the safety requirements of Swiss law and are on a high level of safety in international comparison, as has been shown recently in the EU stress tests.