Two of Germany's 12 nuclear stations stay shut for repairs
Nuclear power stations are repaired as debate on the energy source heats up
Hamburg -- Two of Germany's 12 nuclear power stations are to remain shut for more repairs and other stations are being checked for related construction defects, the Swedish-owned operating company Vattenfall said on Monday near Hamburg.
The two plants, both near Hamburg, have been offline for almost a year as engineers strive to put them in perfect working order and avoid any fresh embarrassments at a time when pro-nuclear views are gaining ground among the German public.
The Kruemmel station has been idle since its main transformer was destroyed in a fire on June 28th last year. The Brunsbuettel plant was shut down for repairs on July 20th as a public outcry grew over revelations of substandard fittings in both plants.
Under German legislation, unpopular nuclear power is set to be phased out in the country by 2022, but debate has been growing about keeping the nuclear plants and their 17 reactors so that Germany can cut energy imports and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
A poll released Sunday showed German public opinion split with 46 percent wanting nuclear back and 46 percent wanting it gone.
In both Hamburg plants, loose wall plugs holding pipes on walls must be replaced and corroded taps and valves need checking.
Vattenfall said the plugs, which allow screws to grip concrete, had not been correctly installed in the first place.
Ivo Banek, a Vattenfall spokesman, said the first defective plug was discovered at a plant in Biblis, south of Frankfurt, last year and similar plugs supporting wall-mounted pipes were being checked and gradually replaced at plants throughout Germany.
"We are working on it, but we can't set a (reopening) date yet," Ernst Michael Zuefle, chief executive of Vattenfall Europe Nuclear Energy (VENE), told reporters on a visit to the Kruemmel plant on Monday.
Wolfgang Cloosters, the chief regulator from the state of Schleswig-Holstein, said on Monday in Kiel that the repairs must be complete repairs before the reactors are re-heated.
Vattenfall is also re-training control room staff in new emergency procedures.
Vattenfall said the fire damage at Kruemmel and damage from a June 28 short circuit at Brunsbuettel had been fixed and had nothing to do with the current repairs. Regulators say none of the defects have caused any release of radioactivity.
The environmentalist group Greenpeace, which has been dismayed by the growing number of Germans favouring nuclear power, described both sites on Monday as "the breakdown reactors" and demanded their closure.
Vattenfall said routine checks have shown some surface corrosion on 43 valves in the cooling-water and steam circuits at Kruemmel. At Brunsbuettel, 15 needed repair and seven were still being assessed.
Both plants are situated on the Elbe river and use river water for cooling.