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Netherlands: Borssele-2 postponed

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Not completely surprising came the announcement of Dutch utility Delta about postponing plans to build a second nuclear power plant in the Netherlands because of the poor investment climate and low electricity prices. Although Delta states it remains committed to the project, not many believe in its resurrection.

Delta had plans to build a nuclear power plant with a maximum capacity of 2,500 megawatts in the Zeeland province in the southwest of the country, next to an existing plant near the town of Borssele, but said on January 23, 2012 it was delaying these for two to three years. "The last half-year the investment climate has worsened due to the financial crisis. In addition, overcapacity of electricity production has increased further due to the recession," Delta said in a statement.

In December it became clear that French EDF, the preferred partner for the project had decided not to participate and when the newly appointed CEO of German utility RWE in an January 21, interview stated that RWE would not invest in a second reactor in Borssele 'under current economical and political circumstances', it was clear that Delta would postpone or cancel the whole project.

RWE owns 30 percent of the existing Borssele plant, while Delta, which is owned by Dutch municipalities and province of Zeeland, owns the remainder. However there was no agreement on cooperation in the construction of the second reactor. Both Delta and RWE (the Dutch subsidiary company ERH Essent) had started a procedure in the past few years to obtain a license for a nuclear power plant.

Delta says it remains 'committed to nuclear power', and stated the decision had nothing to do with the accident at Fukushima or dwindling support for nuclear in Zeeland province… The decision to put the plan on hold is based solely on economic grounds (low energy prices, no investors) and uncertainty about carbon dioxide (CO2) prices, spokeswoman Mirjam van Zuilen said.

On a stakeholders meeting last December, much criticism and skepticism about the project was visible for the first time. A lot had to do with the passionate but clumsy CEO Boerma, who then left the company. Stakeholders decided not to invest 100 million in obtaining a licence but only 10 million to increase support for the project and come up with interested partners in the coming months.

It is the third time plans for a second reactor at Borssele fail. The first time was in the mid 1970's when a rapid growing anti-nuclear sentiment in the Netherlands resulted in a fundamental choice against new nuclear reactors by the smallest coalition partner at the time. The threat of the collapse of the government was enough to first postpone and later cancel the construction of three reactors.

The second attempt was 10 years later and ended with the explosion at Chernobyl, on April 26, 1986.