Two German nuclear plants to run beyond 09 election

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FRANKFURT, Oct 20 (Reuters) - German nuclear power plant operators EnBW and RWE confirmed they will keep two reactors running beyond 2009, when a general election might change nuclear policy.

The two companies on Monday confirmed a weekend media report which said the Neckarwestheim 1 and Biblis A installations will run at least well into 2010, although under the nuclear exit law they should have shut next year.

Operators have long demanded a reversal of the exit programme and bet on a future government accommodating this, as Germany must weigh nuclear safety concerns against the need to keep using cheap and virtually emissions-free nuclear power.

The 1,225 megawatts Biblis A reactor will undergo an outage between Feb 27 and Sept 15 next year, which will allow it to operate beyond 2009, said an RWE spokesman in confirmation of plans RWE had already published in the power market in January.

"We plan indeed to carry out a long maintenance outage at Biblis A next year to improve safety," he said.

"But regardless of that measure, we are optimistic to succeed in extending the lifespan of Biblis A via transferring permissible production quota from either the Muehlheim Kaerlich reactor of the Emsland reactor at Lingen," he added.

Either proposal would help RWE to win a reprieve until 2013 for Biblis A. German courts in Leipzig and Kassel are due to decide on the applications next year.

RWE, along with other nuclear operators, is waging a court battle to exploit loopholes in the eight-year-old exit plan, which stipulated all reactors must close by 2021 at the latest.

It allowed the transfer of unused quotas among plants.

Nuclear sceptics accuse the operators of playing for time so as to get around complying with the nuclear law, which they signed with a former Social Democrat/Green Party government in 2000.

A Conservative Party win in 2009 would create a government supportive of the plan to redraw the nuclear law.

The Neckarwestheim 1 unit of 840 MW on Oct. 13 shut for a maintenance period lasting perhaps six weeks and representing the third stoppage this year, an EnBW spokesman confirmed.

That makes it likely that it will still be running in 2010.

"That is dictated by the need for maintaining safe operations and does not follow a political logic," he said.

EnBW also pursues a court battle over quota transfers, which if successful would allow the plant to run until 2017.

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