Feb 15, 2018 - THTR dismantling: costs and risks as an "established process"

Horst Blume

The maintenance operation of the enclosed thorium high-temperature reactor (THTR) will last from 1997 to 2027.

Ten years ago, on October 17, 10, the Committee for Economy, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Energy North Rhine-Westphalia confirmed the information given in the approval notice 2008 / 7c, after the THTR operators had to inform the nuclear supervisory authority by the end of 12 for how long safe confinement is maintained and when to begin dismantling the reactor.

What's new?

Since nothing has been known to the public so far, we as a citizens' initiative environmental protection Hamm asked the Ministry for Economy, Innovation, Digitization and Energy NRW in detail (1) and received an answer after almost four months on February 7, 2018:

"According to the current state of planning, the high-temperature nuclear power plant GmbH (HKG), as the operator of the plant, intends to maintain the safe enclosure until 2027 and to begin preparing the plant for complete dismantling from 2028 onwards. (...) MWIDE has not yet received any applications to change existing nuclear licenses or to dismantle the THTR 300. "

This sparse information, of course, says very little about the actual discussions and deliberations behind the scenes by operators and ministries. Ten years ago the now taciturn ministry was more informative and on April 9, 2008 presented a relatively detailed schedule for the planned 21 years of dismantling activities:

“2023 - 2028 planning and approval 5,3 years

2028 - 2030 Preparation of the system for dismantling 2,0 years

2030 - 2042 nuclear dismantling 12,0 years

2042 - 2044 dismantling conventional 2,0 years "

The costs

The ministry today writes about the dismantling costs of EUR 347,1 million that were forecast ten years ago:

“The reported price level related to the year 2007. The price level is updated annually in the HKG business plan. (...) According to current planning (as of November 2017), the costs for the dismantling are estimated at around 430 million euros. "

In view of the previous dismantling costs for the twenty times smaller THTR in Jülich over one billion euros, these forecasts for the THTR Hamm can at best be described as a bad joke. But maybe the internally much higher realistic cost forecasts are one more reason not to slow down with the THTR dismantling and to let deadlines like the one of December 31, 12 pass by. Because it is all too obvious that the dismantling will be very expensive and money is scarce.


When we asked about provisions, the Ministry replied:

“As of the balance sheet date of December 31, 12, HKG set up provisions totaling around EUR 2016 million for disposal in the nuclear energy sector. This includes provisions for the shutdown of the power plant as well as provisions for the disposal of irradiated operational elements. Although the amount of the provisions is based on the expected costs, provisions that are underestimated have no effect on the actual payment obligations."

The 900 million euros HKG provisions will hardly be sufficient for the "disposal of irradiated operating elements", since they are to be viewed as perpetual costs to be paid continuously. When HKG runs out of money, the taxpayer will have to step in. Everything else is window dressing.

The Ministry writes about the previous financial commitments for the decommissioning operation:

“So far, all financial commitments have been kept.” And it emphasizes that “the costs incurred will be paid from the unused funds made available by the federal government and North Rhine-Westphalia up to 2009. Should these funds not suffice, the federal government and North Rhine-Westphalia have undertaken to bear half of the additional costs. By the end of 2022, costs of around 28,5 million euros are expected for the operation of the safe enclosure. A further supplementary agreement based on the framework agreement for the period after 2022 has not yet been made. "

In other words: So far, the taxpayer has paid the decommissioning costs significantly and that will probably remain so in the future. How things will continue after 2022 is unclear.


And how does the ministry assess the potential risk of dismantling in view of the radioactive inventory (including 1,6 kg of nuclear fuel) and past incidents?

“The decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear power plants is an established process in Germany, both technically and organizationally, in which the individual dismantling steps are carried out according to a previous detailed planning, taking into account the respective hazard potential. Especially when mining the graphite in the reactor, in the area of ​​which there are still residues of nuclear fuel from the decommissioning phase, it can be assumed that primarily remote-controlled mining and subsequent packaging techniques will be used. The operating history, ie the events during operation, is taken into account in that it is taken into account in a radiological description prior to the dismantling of individual system parts to determine the disposal routes and personal radiation protection. "

The "operating history" or the "events during operation", to stick to the euphemistical jargon of the ministry, show, however, that one has to be prepared for the failure of the THTR reactor that nothing will go as planned. The radioactive graphite dust was blown into the last corner of the reactor through leaks and pipe systems. According to this history, the only thing left for the ministry and the commissioned demolition company to rely on is a non-quantifiable radiological description prior to the dismantling of individual parts of the facility. The creation of a detailed nuclide atlas for all parts of the plant, which we requested, was rejected by all those involved after the THTR was shut down. That will take revenge on future dismantling.

The demolition company will poke around in the graphite-contaminated reactor just as haphazardly as the operators in the unpredictable pebble pile during the operational tests in the 80s. The surprises at THTR will remain. They will drag on for decades. An “established process” for a long time.


(1) THTR Circular No. 149 Dec. 2017: THTR dismantling: Does the NRW government have a plan?


Search the reactor bankruptcy with the search term:
THTR dismantling


Further to: Newspaper article 2018


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