Bright side of nuclear plant closures for E.ON and EnBW

Two German utilities hit particularly hard by the decision of Angela Merkel’s government to phase out nuclear power post-Fukushima are now eyeing opportunities in the lucrative nuclear decommissioning market.

EnBW and E.ON are in the process of closing five nuclear power plants to go with five already shut since the government decree. The plants had been majorly profitable businesses so as well as that keenly felt loss, both companies have had to take on the acute financial burden of decommissioning their facilities.
However the skilled dismantling experience accumulated is now being positioned to take advantage of the global nuclear decommissioning drive set to unfold over the next four decades as old nuclear power plants are set to be retired.

Reuters reports that both companies are already attracting international interest for their decommissioning expertise.

“We are increasingly getting requests from countries where the decommissioning of nuclear plants is an issue or will become one,” said a spokeswoman for E.ON’s PreussenElektra division, which was formed last year to wind down the company’s nuclear business and operate the plants in the interim period.

The unit, which employs about 650 decommissioning staff, said it was seeing particularly strong demand for its know-how in Japan, where 12 reactors are set to be closed down, adding that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) was among its clients.

EnBW formed its plant decommissioning division following the Fukushima disaster and it has about 500 staff. More recently, the division launched a consultancy service aimed at pitching for external work, including internationally.

An unnamed source told Reuters that the group had advised all three Swiss nuclear plants operators – BKW Energie, Axpo and Alpiq – in dismantling projects last year and was still actively working for one of them.

Despite the promise afforded by inevitable global closures, both German operators face stiff competition, with Areva, Bechtel and Fluor already strong in the sector.

The International Energy Agency states that 150 GW of nuclear capacity, more than a third of the world’s total, will be retired by 2040, with Europe accounting for more than 40 per cent.

The market for nuclear decommissioning services is expected to nearly double to $8.6 billion euros by 2021, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

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