LOW ELECTRICITY PRICES AND OUTPUT TAX BEHIND THE DECISION ON EARLY SHUTDOWNS

SWEDEN The decision to shut Ringhals 1 and 2 down ahead of schedule was taken because it is unprofitable to continue operating them. “Under normal circumstances, reactors are shut down when they have reached the end of their technical operating life. In this case, however, low electricity prices and the output tax together have made the reactors unprofitable,” says Torbjörn Wahlborg, Head of Business Area Generation at Vattenfall.

The definitive decision to bring the shutdowns of reactors 1 and 2 at the Ringhals nuclear power plant forward to the period 2018-2020 will be taken later this year by the board of Ringhals AB.

Vattenfall owns 70.4 per cent of the company, with the rest owned by Eon.

“As soon as the decision has been made, we can begin optimising the operation and maintenance of these reactors on the basis of the new target of shutting them down in the period from 2018 to 2020. Until they have been decommissioned, we will focus fully on power generation with a high level of safety and availability,” says Chairman of the Board of Ringhals AB Torbjörn Wahlborg, who is also Head of Business Area Generation at Vattenfall.

Low electricity prices
Wahlborg points out that the decline in the profitability of nuclear power in Sweden is due to low electricity prices and the nuclear tax.

“Even without a raised output tax we would have taken the decision to bring the shutdowns of Ringhals 1 and 2 forward.”

Shutting these reactors down in 2018-2020 instead of 2025 as previously planned, will have an impact on personnel, both at the nuclear power plant itself and in support functions.

However, Wahlborg adds that those mainly affected will be consultants.

“I have encountered concern and disappointment within the company since we announced our decision. I completely understand this reaction. After all, these are two efficiently operating plants.”

A natural decision
From certain quarters, Vattenfall’s decision has been seen as the nail in the coffin of the discussion about replacement reactors in Sweden. This interpretation is not shared by Torbjörn Wahlborg.

“To shut reactors down before they have reached the end of their technical operating life is a decision taken purely on commercial grounds. But it is true that with today’s low electricity prices it would be impossible to build any form of new production capacity without subsidies. However, we should note that there is no need for ten reactors in Sweden in view of the electricity surplus and the ongoing expansion of wind power.”

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