German ministry blocks RWE plans to keep Biblis open


Germany's environment ministry rejected an application from nuclear operator RWE to keep its Biblis A nuclear reactor open longer, in a fresh blow to industry hopes of reversing a national closure plan.

RWE had asked to transfer 30 terawatt hours of power production quotas from its Emsland nuclear plant to Biblis A.

The Biblis unit is due to shut in late 2009 under Germany's nuclear phase-out deal but a long recent outage at the plant means its operating life could be extended to at least 2010.

RWE has been pursuing this as an alternative option as it lost in February an appeal against a rejection of an earlier application to transfer quotas from an idle nuclear plant at Muehlheim-Kaerlich to Biblis A.

“Biblis A has fewer safety features than the modern Emsland plant...the transfer is not necessary to ensure energy supply security, or climate protection,” the Berlin ministry said in a statement.

The latest decision is significant as two RWE peers, and Vattenfall Europe, are also seeking to battle public opinion and get politicians to change the exit deal under which all reactors must close by 2021.

They need approval from three authorities - the environment ministry, the Chancellery, and the economy ministry.

The ruling coalition government is split - Christian Democrats support longer life cycles for the remaining 17 reactors and Social Democrats oppose any extension.

EnBW hopes to transfer quotas from its southern German Neckarwestheim 2 reactor to adjacent Neckarwestheim 1 and Vattenfall wants to “borrow” extra quotas for its Brunsbuettel plant in northern Germany from nearby Kruemmel.

While Monday's decision is a setback for RWE, a long closure of Biblis A between mid-September 2006 and early February 2008 should allow RWE to run Biblis for longer as it would saved nuclear production quotas for later use.

Each nuclear operator received an amount of production quotas when the nuclear exit plan was agreed.

If Biblis A is salvaged beyond the next general election in the autumn of 2009, an outright win by the Christian Democracts may bring a reversal of the phase-out deal.

Similarly, Brunsbuettel has been shut since a fire last summer, with the restart date as yet undecided.

A Vattenfall spokesman said on Monday that this meant that the plant would close permanently in Feb. 2010 at the earliest. (Reuters)

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