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Nuclear challenge Upgrading and dismantling power plants

Beznau 1 in canton Aargau is the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the world. When it opened in 1969 people praised the new technology. But after events in Chernobyl and Fukushima, perceptions changed. (SRF/swisinfo.ch)

The Beznau plant is now 44 years old. Too old for nuclear energy opponents who would like it be shut down as soon as possible. But no decision has been reached yet on when Beznau should be taken offline.

The power plant’s operator Axpo is currently investing over 700 million francs on upgrades and security. The covers of the reactor pressure vessels are being replaced and a new emergency power supply system will be installed by 2015.

For the nuclear power plant in Mühleberg in canton Bern, the plan is to shut it down in 2019. After that dismantling will begin. This will require specialist knowledge from abroad. The Mühleberg operator BKW claims it will take 15 years until it’s safe enough for cows to graze on the plot again.

After the plant is switched off, the 240 active fuel rods will take five years to be cooled properly. Only then will they be shipped to an interim storage facility. Then it will take another 10 years to dismantle the site.

Overall between 4000 and 5000 tons of radioactive material will have to be disposed of. Until the country finds a long-term storage solution for its nuclear waste, the material will be decontaminated and stored in this interim storage facility in Würenlingen in Aargau.

Critics believe that it will take more than 15 years to have Mühleberg completely dismantled. The costs for switching off and dismantling all 5 Swiss nuclear power plants are estimated at 20 billion Swiss francs. The money will come from a special fund created by the energy companies.

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