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Nuclear Power in Sweden Appendix 1: Barsebäck Closure

Barsebäck Closure

The Barsebäck nuclear power plant is situated in the south of Sweden 30 km from Malmö and only 20 km from Copenhagen, the capital city of Sweden's strongly anti-nuclear neighbour, Denmark. The two 600 MWe BWR units commenced operations in 1975 and 1977, and were shut down in November 1999 and May 2005.

In 1997, the Swedish government decided to close unit 1 in mid-1998 and unit 2 in mid-2001. Sydkrafta,  the utility owning Barsebäck, responded by challenging the legality of the decision and made a formal complaint to the European Commission on the basis of unreasonable discrimination. It also negotiated with the Swedish government regarding full compensation in actual generating capacity, not simply money. The result was that the closure of unit 1 was postponed until the end of November 1999 under a complex agreement among the government, Sydkraft and Vattenfall to transfer an interest in the latter's Ringhals plant (one 835 MWe BWR and three slightly larger PWRs) to Sydkraft.

The twin unit, Barsebäck 2, continued in operation under a new joint production company, Ringhals AB, in which Sydkraft (now E.ON Sverige) had a 25.8% share (though Barseback 2 contributed only 14.5% of the capacity). Reactor ownership was unchanged.

Then in October 2004, after two years of discussion with utilities on the future of the country's nuclear power plants, the Swedish government broke off negotiations and declared that Barsebäck 2 would close in May 2005 after 28 years operation, regardless of previously-agreed conditions regarding indigenous replacement power.

Industry and trade union leaders had strong words about the proposed Barsebäck closure. This "will be fought and we will never accept that the country unnecessarily throws away 20 to 30 billion kronor [US$ 2-3 billion] while we chop wood to meet energy needs" said Volvo Chairman, the late B. Svanholm, in a widely quoted letter with a further 100 signatures. The letter was critical of a worsening business climate in Sweden and said that the plan to "decommission a clean, cheap and highly effective form of energy is the last straw."

The cost of electricity figured strongly in industry considerations. The Energy Commission put basic nuclear costs at 15-18 ore (EUR 1.7 to 2.0 cents) per kilowatt hour, including waste management, capital improvements and decommissioning. Any replacement capacity would inevitably cost considerably more (e.g. gas at 30 ore/kWh, or 2.85 cents/kWh), and both trade unions and industry were extremely concerned at the likely effect of this.

Compensation for the premature closure of unit 1 in 1999 cost the Swedish taxpayers SEK 5.7 billion (EUR 593 million) plus a payment for operating unit 2 on its own. The compensation for unit 2 was agreed at SEK 5.6 billion (EUR 583 million) - SEK 4.1 billion to Vattenfall, and SEK 1.5 billion to E.ON Sverige. As part of the deal, Vattenfall transferred almost 4% of its ownership in Ringhals AB to E.ON Sverige (taking E.ON's share to 29.56%).

Production from Barsebäck was to be replaced by power from wood-fuelled, combined heat and power plants, some wind power and extensive conservation measures such as replacing electric heating with gas. It was accepted that increased natural gas consumption and some net electricity imports (e.g. from Danish and German coal-fired and nuclear power stations) would also be needed. In fact, removal of 8.5 TWh/y from the county's nuclear output is being replaced by imports from Germany and Denmark, much of it coal-fired, and by nuclear generation from Finland and Russia, in the latter case from ageing RBMK reactors (similar to the Chernobyl design).

Neither Barseback unit is expected to be dismantled until around 2020, when storage for components is expected to be ready.

Further Information


a. In 2001, E.ON acquired a majority shareholding in Sydkraft, which changed its name to E.ON Sverige in September 2005. E.ON took full ownership of E.ON Sverige when it acquired Statkraft's 44.6% stake in the company in mid-2008. [Back]

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Nuclear Power in Sweden