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German reactor in stretch-out mode ahead of refuelling

23 Sep 2016 14:10 (+01:00 GMT)
German reactor in stretch-out mode ahead of refuelling

London, 23 September (Argus) — German utility RWE's 1.3W Gundremmingen C reactor will run below maximum capacity from 26 September until the start of maintenance at the end of December while the company's other two reactors will start stretch-out operations next quarter.

All but one of Germany's eight nuclear reactors will come off line for refuelling at some point between the fourth quarter this year and the first quarter of 2017 as plant operators seek to avoid another payment of the nuclear fuel rod tax.

The Gundremmingen C reactor will be the first to start so-called stretch-out operations as its current fuel cycle is coming to an end — with the plant operated below maximum capacity until it comes off line for maintenance and refuelling on 28 December.

"Physical obligatory must-run phases within [the stretch-out period] are not exactly predictable", RWE said today in a filing to the transparency platform operated by the European Energy Exchange (EEG).

The Gundremmingen C plant will, on average, run 158MW below maximum capacity until maintenance starts, based on current schedules. The unit is scheduled to start returning from refuelling on 9 January.

RWE's 1.3GW Emsland A reactor will start stretch-out operations on 7 November and run, on average, 84MW below maximum capacity, until its scheduled maintenance on 26 December through to 7 January.

The utility's 1.3GW Gundremmingen B reactor will run on average 114MW below maximum capacity 1 November–2 February and be off line completely for refuelling on 3 February through to 19 February.

German PreussenElektra, a subsidiary of domestic utility Eon, will take its Isar 2 reactor off line on 14-28 January, its Brokdorf reactor on 11 February through to 3 March and its Grohnde reactor on 3 March to 5 April. The three reactors have a capacity of around 1.4GW each.

German utility EnBW plans to take its 1.4GW Phillipsburg 2 reactor off line on 25 December–13 January.

EnBW's 1.3GW Neckwarwest 2 reactor is the only nuclear unit for which refuelling was not pushed towards the start of next year. The unit returned from annual maintenance yesterday.

Nuclear power plant operators have to pay the nuclear tax for each fuel rod they replace. The levy will expire on 31 December. At the height of the stoppages, Germany's nuclear availability will fall to as low as 6.6GW on 30 December through to 7 January. But upside for prices in the German wholesale power market from the unseasonably low nuclear availability might be limited over that period because of the typically low industrial demand for power during the Christmas and new year holidays, and as Germany remains exposed to strong wind power generation in the winter months.

And while nuclear availability is to hover below 100pc throughout the first quarter of next year, market participants have so far resisted pricing in a strong upside risk premium for the German base-load contract delivering in January-March, largely because of the potential of high wind power in-feed.

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German scheduled nuclear availability MW