Decommissioning

Sweden / After 44 Years Of Operation, Ringhals-1 Shuts Down For Good

By David Dalton
4 January 2021

Two remaining plants at site will operate until 2040s
After 44 Years Of Operation, Ringhals-1 Shuts Down For Good
The Ringhals nuclear power station, where two reactors remain in operation Courtesy Vattenfall.
After 44 years of commercial operation, the Ringhals-1 nuclear power reactor near Varberg in southwestern Sweden has been shut down for good.

The 881-MW boiling water reactor unit reactor began commercial operation on 1 January 1976 and according to principal owner Vattenfall is estimated to have delivered 220 terawatt hours of electricity, which corresponds to the entire electricity consumption of Gothenburg since the reactor was started.

In December 2019, the Ringhals-2 nuclear power reactor was permanently shut down after more than 43 years of commercial operation.

Vattenfall said in 2015 that it would close the two Ringhals plants as a result of falling demand, the falling price of electricity and the units being in need of costly maintenance.

Vattenfall had planned to operate Ringhals-1 and the 807-MW Ringhals-2 until about 2025. But in September 2015 the company said all investment in the units would stop in 2017, with savings of about €180m. The decision meant the two reactors could not be operated after 2020, because they would not be upgraded to meet new safety requirements.

The station’s other two reactors, Ringhals-3 and Ringhals-4, are set to keep running until the 2040s. The company said it had already invested more than €800m in independent cooling systems, a regulatory requirement following the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident in Japan.

Vattenfall said the next step at Ringhals-1 is to empty the reactor of nuclear fuel and then prepare the plant for decommissioning. Dismantling will start “on a larger scale” in the second half of 2022.

Ringhals-1 is the fourth commercial nuclear power reactor to close in five years in Sweden. The others are Ringhals-2, Oskarhamn-1 and Oskarhamn-2.

The pros and cons of nuclear power have formed part of a long-running debate in Sweden, but press reports said the decision to close the Ringhals units was based purely on falling profitability and increased costs.

Sweden now has six commercial reactors in operation at three nuclear stations: two at Ringhals, three at Forsmark and one at Oskarshamn. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency the nuclear fleet – at the time consisting of eight units –generated about 34% of the country’s electricity in 2019, down from 40% in 2018.

An April 2019 report by the International Energy Agency said Sweden should assess the contribution of nuclear power up to 2040 and the impact of potential early closures on the country’s energy security.

The report said nuclear power has operated efficiently in Sweden, at high availability and load factors.

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