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Wind and Solar Farms Are Putting European Nuclear Out of Work

(Bloomberg) — Two nuclear reactors that have served homes and factories in Sweden and Germany for many decades will produce their last electricity by the end of this month.

The permanent halt of Vattenfall AB’s 44-year-old Ringhals-2 reactor is yet another sign of how the surge in renewable energy has upended traditional energy economics. The Nordic region’s biggest utility made the decision not to invest to keep the facility going because of the unit’s struggle to break even as power from wind and solar farms flood the European grids and increasingly crowd out traditional power sources.

In Southern (NYSE:) Germany’s advanced manufacturing heartland, Energie Baden Wuertenberg AG is preparing to close Philippsburg-2, one of the nation’s biggest reactors, which has helped power the car industry’s megaplants since mid-1980s. While its fate was sealed by Chancellor Angela Merkel in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it probably wouldn’t be closing without the nation’s unprecedented supply of wind and solar power.

While Merkel’s decision to shut down Germany’s nuclear plants by 2022 is done and dusted — 10 reactors have closed since 2011 — the political debate over the future of atomic power is raging in Sweden. With the closure of the Ringhals reactor just days away on Dec. 30, three parties supported a proposal from the Sweden Democrats to continue running the two Ringhals units slated to close this year and next. The four opposition parties want to give state-owned Vattenfall instructions to halt the wind-down of operations.The decommissioning decision was based on business reasons and that’s still the company’s view, Vattenfall said Thursday in a response to questions from Bloomberg News. A smaller reactor in Switzerland is also shutting permanently on Friday. Muhleberg will be the nation’s first atomic power station to close. When operator BKW AG announced the permanent halt in 2015, it said the decommissioning project will be the utility’s biggest job since the plant began to generate power in 1972. 

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