SZ podcast: Phasing out nuclear power: How do you dismantle a nuclear power plant?  – Knowledge

SZ podcast: Phasing out nuclear power: How do you dismantle a nuclear power plant? – Knowledge

This Saturday, April 15, 2023, the last three German nuclear power plants will be shut down: Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 1 and Emsland. This ends the era of German nuclear power.

It began in the 1950s with a first research reactor and has experienced many ups and downs over the decades. In 2011, after the reactor catastrophe in Fukushima, the German Bundestag decided to finally phase out. But even if this is now complete: The nuclear power plants will keep us busy for many years to come. Because they have to be dismantled piece by piece. How does this work?

“Of course, dismantling nuclear power plants is not as easy as dismantling or demolishing a normal residential building,” says Sascha Gentes, a professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. First, the fuel elements would have to be removed and then usually cooled for several years before they can be loaded into a castor. Only then does the actual dismantling begin.

It is small and requires a lot of manual work: Each part has to be “cleared”, i.e. checked for radioactivity. Irradiated material must be decontaminated. In the end, around three percent of the waste produced has to be stored in a radiation-safe manner, the rest can be disposed of normally or reused.

Although Gentes is a professional in decommissioning, he is in favor of nuclear power. “Personally, I think it’s absolutely wrong to shut down three of the safest nuclear power plants at the moment and start up outdated coal-fired power plants instead,” he says. But even after he has left, he sees a future for his subject area: “End storage in Germany will keep us busy for many decades or maybe even centuries.” It is therefore important that the topic of nuclear power remains in the public eye and that engineers are won over to it.

Here you will find the SZ report about the dismantling of a nuclear power plant.

Click here for the text about the history of nuclear power in Germany.

The editorial deadline for this program was Friday, April 14, 2023 at 5 p.m.

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Moderation, editing: Nadja Schlueter

Editors: Antonia Franz and Vinzent-Vitus Leitgeb

Production: Jakob Arnu

Additional audio material about ARD, SWR and US Department of Justice

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