SWEDEN Reactors 1 and 2 at Vattenfall’s nuclear power plant in Ringhals, Sweden, may be closed down earlier than the company had planned, due to lower profitability and higher costs.

Vattenfall had originally planned to close down reactors 1 and 2 at Ringhals around 2025. But this closure may now be brought forward to the period between 2018 and 2020.

“Unfortunately we are seeing that the current market conditions with low electricity prices are likely to continue for the next few years. At the same time we are seeing our production costs increasing. Our decision will be made for commercial reasons. It’s naturally regrettable to close down fully-operational generation plants, but it is sometimes unavoidable,” says Torbjörn Wahlborg, Head of Business Area Generation at Vattenfall. 

SEK 15.1 billion
Ringhals 1 and 2 are currently valued at SEK 15.1 billion on Vattenfall’s balance sheets. The company owns 70.4 per cent of Ringhals. 

Roger Strandahl, Head of Communications at Eon, which owns 29.6 per cent of Ringhals, hopes that the matter will be settled quickly. “This decision will be made by Vattenfall’s board, and we hope that Vattenfall will bring up the matter on the board of Ringhals, where we are also represented.” 

Full focus
Eva Halldén, CEO of both Ringhals and Vattenfall’s other Swedish nuclear power plant in Forsmark, emphasises that the focus will still be the safe and stable operation of the plants. The effects on staffing by a possible earlier closure of reactors 1 and 2 at Ringhals will be investigated but long-term detailed planning will be first implemented once the Ringhals Board has made a decision on closure. “Right now, Ringhals has to focus on operating the plants in a safe and stable manner and carrying out this year’s outages according to plan. We also need to ensure that we have the right expertise and staff in place in the future." 

“It is important to remember that operations at Ringhals will continue for many years. Reactors 3 and 4 have a planned operating life into the 2040s. And even at Ringhals 1 and 2, operations will continue for many years before these plants are finally decommissioned.” 

2040s horizon
For Vattenfall’s three other Swedish reactors at the Forsmark nuclear power plant, the existing planning basis of at least 60 years’ operation will be retained, which takes us a little way into the 2040s. 

Welcomed by government parties
The information about the possible premature closure of reactors 1 and 2 at Ringhals is in line with the Green Party’s statements during the election campaign of autumn 2014.
At that time, spokesperson Åsa Romson promised to ensure that at least two reactors would be closed by 2018, as they would become unprofitable due to stricter requirements and higher costs. 

Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan (Social Democrats) welcomed Tuesday’s decision by Vattenfall and said that it had been prompted by the low price of electricity. “The price has dropped by half due to a substantial surplus in the Swedish energy system. It has long been known that we have an aging nuclear power base. We must sit down and face this challenge seriously.” 

“Unfortunate decision”
Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberal People’s Party, nevertheless regretted the news. “This is an unfortunate decision that Vattenfall is being forced to make. To close a nuclear power plant prematurely has an impact on both climate and jobs.”

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