After a fire at the Kruemmel nuclear power plant in late June, energy company Vattenfall was
quick to reassure the public that the reactor was not affected. But later, the news has been
revealed that the fire did in fact have an effect on the reactor. The news came at a time when
the German government was debating the future of nuclear power.
(658.5816) WISE Amsterdam -
Contrary to previous reports, a fire at
the Kruemmel nuclear power plant in
Germany on June 28, did in fact affect
the reactor. At first, officials said that the
fire only affected a transformer in the
plant but not the reactor itself and that
there was no risk of a radioactivity leak.
No one was injured in the fire
which started when coolant in a large
electric power transformer substation
ignited due to a short circuit.
However experts who are investigating
the cause of the fire have discovered
that the reactor was in fact affected. In a
statement released on July 3 by the
Health Ministry in the state of
Schleswig-Holstein, which is responsible
for nuclear safety, it reported that the
authorities had checked "several
incidents caused by the shutdown of the
The experts found that one of the
pumps which supply water to the reactor
had shut down unexpectedly, and two
safety and relief valves had opened
accidentally. The result was that the
water level and the pressure in the
reactor fell quickly. However the drop in
water level and pressure could be
"balanced out by switching on a reserve
supply system," the ministry said,
adding: "Despite these incidents, the
safety of the facilities was guaranteed."
Immediately after the fire, Vattenfall, the
utility company which operates the
nuclear plant, had claimed that the
reactor was not affected by the fire.
Now politicians are asking why the
seriousness of the problem wasn't made
public earlier.
Experts have been studying the scene
of the fire in Kruemmel. They were only
able to get into the interior of the
transformer hall on July 2, where they
found the transformer has been so
severely damaged that it cannot be
repaired and will have to be replaced.
The cable which connects the power
station and the transformer may also
have to be replaced, Vattenfall said.
The reactor at Kruemmel came into
operation in 1983 and is one of the
oldest types of reactors still working in
Asecond nuclear power plant at nearby
Brunsbuettel was shut down only a few
hours before the Kruemmel fire after a
short-circuit. There is speculation that
the problem at Brunsbuettel may have
caused the fire at Kruemmel due to a
change in voltage in the network after
Brunsbuettel was shut down.
The German branch of Friends of the
Earth, BUND, demanded "full
transparency in the investigation of the
causes of the fire and possible dangers"
from the plant's operator, European
energy group, Vattenfall. BUND
demanded the immediate closure of
both plants.
Greenpeace also accused Vattenfall and
the local government in Kiel of
withholding important information on the
consequences of the incident. According
to the environmental organization, this
was an obvious attempt to avoid conflict
at Germany's third annual energy
summit in Berlin, which was focusing on
exploring ways to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions and curb global warming.
At that meeting, German chancellor
Angela Merkel called the battle against
climate change the "greatest challenge
of the 21st century" - and said there will
be no change to the government's plan
to phase out nuclear power. Merkel
unveiled plans to cut carbon emissions
by up to 40% by 2020. She
disappointed the nuclear industry heads
at a Berlin summit by reiterating that the
government does not expect to agree
any change to its nuclear energy policy
before 2009, when the current
legislative period ends.
Germany's nuclear power plants
generate about 26% of its electricity and
are due to close by 2021 under an
agreement reached by the previous
administration and ratified by Merkel's
coalition government. Utility chiefs want
to operate nuclear plants for longer, and
industrial leaders had hoped the debate
about the nuclear phase-out could be
reopened as a result of the Berlin
meeting. Many members of Merkel's
Conservative party would also like to
see the phase-out dropped, but the plan
remains strongly supported by the
Social Democrats, who form half of the
coalition government.
Merkel said the government wants to
achieve the carbon cuts by improving
energy efficiency by 3% per year, an
amount many energy industry experts
have called unrealistic. The July 3
discussions are to form the basis of a
national energy plan, with the German
government to produce a package of
legislative measures. Decisions are
expected at a cabinet meeting in
Klaus Toepfer, a leading conservative
(and Party Member of Merkel) and
former German environment minister,
who until last year headed the United
Nations Environment Program, was
quoted in the Sunday Telegraph saying:
"We need a future without nuclear
power and we must do everything to
develop renewable energy sources and
increase energy efficiency to achieve
Sources: Spiegel Online, 4 July 2007 /
Deutsche Welle, 5 July 2007 / WNN, 3
July 2007 / Sunday Telegraph, 8 July
Contact: Greenpeace Germany, Sigrid
Totz, Grosse Elbstrasse 39, 22767
Hamburg, Germany.
Tel: +49 40 30618-0
Mail: sigrid-totz@greenepace.de