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Schröder's phaseout: Restart license without minister's consent

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 13, 1998) German pro-nuclear outgoing minister of environment and reactor safety (BMU), Angela Merkel, has objected to a decision by Schröder to let the Unterweser reactor in Lower Saxony restart without her consent. Industry sources said there was an agreement before the elections between Schröder and PreussenElektra that the reactor would be restarted before the BMU was handed over to Green Minister Jürgen Trittin.

(502.4955) WISE Amsterdam - Although Schröder was certain to be prime minister of the Federal Republic of Germany after he won the September 27 elections, he gave a permit to restart Unterweser three days after the elections, in his function as prime minister of Lower Saxony. So while he was negotating about a phaseout with the Green Party, the first thing he did was to make sure the Unterweser reactor could restart.
Unterweser got a permit for restart on October 1, after it had been down for four months. It was closed after an incident at Level 2 under the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), the first INES level 2 event in Germany. Merkel stated Schröder had violated German nuclear regulations by allowing the unit to restart without advance federal allowance. Merkel said safety probes at Unterweser were still under way. The reactor had been under intense examination by several nuclear safety consultant firms and by the German Nuclear Safety Commission (RSK) since the incident in June. An inspection found that all redundant valves powering the main steam isolation and safety valve station were locked out on one of the four loops, and rendered the valves unusable during operation. RSK held two special closed-door sessions to examine the incident in detail and to search for safety-relevant consequences not only for Unterweser but also for other German reactors. The investigations were not yet finished on October 1 when the license to restart was given.

Schröder has ruled Lower Saxony since 1992 and was on good terms with Preussenelektra's boss Harig. They negotiated regularly together with Preussenelektra owner VEBA on a national nuclear policy consensus between political parties and industry.
The restart license was a signal to German power bosses that the SPD leader is a man to do business with.
For political reasons, the reactor was not allowed to restart until after the elections. A restart license given before the elections would have meant votes going from the SPD to the Greens.

Source: Nucleonics Week, 15 October 1998
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