Biblis (Germany)

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1* 1200 and 1*1300 MW PWR units; constructed by KWU; in operation since 1974 and 1976, respectively.

Facilities in Biblis

plantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down

"RWE's Biblis A pressurised water reactor has restarted after over a year offline for €68 million ($92 million) of upgrades and modernisation work.

RWE Power announced on 19 March that operations had restarted at the 1167 MWe unit, and that the plant was expected to start feeding power into the grid soon. The work done at the plant included upgrading security measures at the plant, plus safety audits and detailed inspections focusing on ultrasonic testing of the reactor pressure vessel and on eddy currents in the unit's four steam generators. The plant has also undergone retrofitting and updating to increase the safety margins in the case of a major loss of coolant.

Biblis A, which started commercial operation in 1975, is Germany's oldest operating nuclear power unit. However, under German nuclear policy introduced in 2001, the operational lives of Germany's nuclear power plants is limited to 32 years. Indeed, had the unit not been in the maintenance outage it could have faced closure before last year's governmental elections, which saw the return of a right-of-centre coalition government committed to rescinding the country's policy to phase out nuclear power. Despite the recent expenditure lavished on the plant by RWE, Biblis A could still potentially face closure before the end of the year if a policy change enabling German nuclear utilities to extend plant operating lives is not forthcoming. "



A leak was detected in one of the four steam generators by the monitoring system.


Wrong placemehnt of dowels at retrofitting measures at block A and B


German power firm RWE officially requested to keep its Biblis A nuclear reactor running beyond 2008, the date it should be shut under the country's nuclear phase-out policy. RWE said it wanted to transfer allowable running time from its closed Muelheim-Kaerlich reactor. The environment ministry said it would examine the request in detail.


In 2004 in Biblis-A 12 events rated INES 0 occured according to the BfS annual report.


In 2004 in Biblis-B 17 events rated INES 0 occured according to the BfS annual report.


During analyses of a weekly water sample at Biblis-A the concentration of Tritium was found to be 8% higher than allowed. This was not caused by a technical fault but by an inaccurate tritium balance. This event was labeled INES 1.


During a special test of the emergency feed pump the necessary isolation could not be performed. Therefore only two out of four guaranteed feedwater systems would have been in function. This event was rated INES 0.


While Biblis-B was shutdown for refuelling special tests of valves showed that the torque converter of two valves did not correspond as planned. Investigations at Biblis-A showed identical results for valves of the same type. These faults have not been found in prior tests. This event was rated INES 1.


In Biblis-B during a loss of electric power all four emergency diesel generators had to be put in operation. In doing so one of the four feeder switches in Biblis-B that are necessary for emergency power for Biblis-A was also deactivated. Therefore the emergency feeder for unit A was not available for 2 hours. This event was rated INES 0.


In 2003 in Biblis-A 12 and in Biblis-B 6 events rated INES 0 occured according to the BfS annual report.


Biblis A has been shut down since April because the sump screens are too small. They have been to small since construction of the plant in 1974, but this has only been detected last year. Now bigger ones will be built in.


An incorrectly wired fire-extinguishing pump was discovered in block B. According to data of the Hessian Department of Environment the defect was noticed, when the voltage supply of two extinguishing pumps in block A had been examined from Block B. The ministry communicated that the pumps could be required in the context of the extended state of emergency system for the heat dissipation. The defect was repaired. There was no danger at no time for personnel or the environment.


In block B a leaky instrumentation line was discovered during a routine control. According to the operator company RWE Power the line measures the pressure in the reactor cooling circle. A cause for the leakage is a production fault. The seam was not welded correctly, said power station speaker Ernst Mueller. In accordance with the German reporting criteria the occurrence was classified under the category N such as normal and the authority is announced. The occurrence is to be assigned to the stage 0 after the international scale for evaluation (INES), thus without safety-relevant meaning. Radioactivity was not set free.
The lockable line was inserted some years ago. It does not concern those welding seams, which had brought the power station in December 2000 into the headlines. At that time it became current, that there were welding seams in Block A, which had not been examined completely since the start-up of the nuclear reactor in 1974. All instrumentation lines were controlled as a precaution within the questionable range and were without remarkablenesses.


Next to a leakage of a steam generator of block A several litres radioactive liquid leaked. However the limiting values were not crossed according to information of the power station. After some days of repairing the reactor was started again.


A cooling device failed, which is used for cooling of safety-relevant important areas.


Concerning to the Federal Ministry of Environment 97 notifiable events, including two of the category "urgent", occurred in the two reactor blocks of the atomic power plant in Biblis since 1998. After 29 measures of retrofitting, regular revision and a change of the fuel elements was finished, block A became started again. The retrofitting cost 65 million Euro.
The Ministry informed, that measures of retrofitting belong to the "main measures of safety-relevant systems and components and that without these a safe operation of the reactor would be no longer possible". This consists of fitting the containers against earthquakes, improvement of the leakage monitoring, emergency protection measures in the reactor containment as well as a new process computer. Further safety improving measures like the installation of an emergency cooling system in the containment and the installation of hydrogen recombiners were realized.
The retrofitting is based on the condition of secretary of the environment Karl Heinz Weimar (CDU) from 1991. The second part of the safety-relevant retrofitting from the Weimar condition is to be terminated until 2003.
The Federation of citizens' initiatives for environmental protection (BBU) and the federation for environment and nature protection Germany (BUND) announced criticism at the start-up of block A. "Biblis is the only German atomic power plant, which is still operated without an own emergency control room." BUND and BBU consider the restarting of block A also irresponsible, because the two blocks are insufficiently protected against a crash of a fast flying combat aircraft. There is also no restriction for civilian or military aircrafts to fly over NPPs.


In block A a defective valve was discovered. The system is to prevent the uncontrolled escape of radioactivity. Endangerment did not exist. In the following days further valves would be examined. Steam clouds would develop over the pile.


In block B of the AKW Biblis signs of corrosion in the main coolant pipe were determined.
Concerning to recurring checks for 23 years no lack could be determined according to the hessian atomic authorities. Only by an improved "testing submarine"-technique, during which the pipings can be used, signs of corrosion could be determined.

The reactor coolant pipes are large pipelines, which connect the reactor pressure vessel with the steam generators, the main coolant pumps. At these large pipelines with radioactive primary coolant cycle further safety-relevant important lines, for instance the emergency core cooling and residual heat removal system, are attached.

The Federal Ministry of Environment judges necessary that Biblis B reoperates no sooner as the federal authorities made its safety-relevant evaluation.


The BfS issued a permit valid until the end of July for shipment of a further six spend fuel rods from Biblis to Sellafield.


A court in Germany has overturned the latest legal attempt to force the closure of the Biblis A NP unit.
The state administrative court in Hessen ruled that moves by the anti-nuclear state authorities to withdraw Biblis A operating license - on the basis of arguments contained in legal petitions by four individuals, four administrative districts and one city authority - were not valid. It ordered Hessen to re-examine the legal petitions, and to issue fresh rulings which were "factually oriented, comprehensible and reasonable in technical and engineering terms".
Operators RWE welcomed the court ruling, which they described as "legally binding" the state authority. The utility described the decision as a victory for law and order in the face of Hessen´s persistent attempts to force the abandonment of nuclear energy by all legal means available.
The Hessen Environment Ministry, which is controlled by the Green Party, said the court decision had stressed that the state was the relevant authority in licensing matters. It called on the Federal Environment Ministry, which has quashed several previous attempts to close Biblis, to withdraw its decrees forbidding the implementation of closure orders.


The state of Hesse last week refused to permit utility RWE Energie AG to continue preparing for restart of the Biblis-A PWR, on grounds that, according to Germanys reactor inspectorate, not all safety-critical isolation valves have been examined.
Biblis-A has been shut since April 1995, when management reported a slow leak in an isolation valve in the emergency core cooling system (ECCS). According to regulators, that valve was a key factor in a 1987 interfacing systems LOCA precursor at Biblis-A, which led to a stormy battle between regulators and RWE over remedial measures and plant safety.
According to the statement from RWE issued March 15, "After eight months of intensive examinations, repairs and careful study of the cause of (valve) damage, Biblis is now getting ready to restart."
But on the same day, Hesse regulators ordered a halt to restart preparation. "RWE can reload the core only after it exposes five isolation valves to X-ray tests, or only after the reactor inspectorate certifies that the tests are not necessary," Hesse announced.


The state government of Hesse, embroiled in a struggle with the federal government over the safety of the two-unit Biblis PWR station, announced January 23 it will not head a Bonn order to allow restart of Biblis-A and will instead keep the reactor down indefinitely.
"Biblis-A will stay off-line because of massive safety deficiencies as long as the defects are not remedied," said Margarethe Nimsch, Hesse State Minister for Environment & Energy.
Biblis-A has been off-line since mid-1995. Angela Merkel, Federal minister of Environment & Nuclear Safety (BMU), has ordered Hesse to allow the reactor to return to service, in part on the basis of a safety evaluation from consultant Gesellschaft fuer Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) mbH., which concluded that there are no technical safety grounds for delaying operation.


RWE AG might prematurely decommission Biblis-A if it is forced to make expensive improvements to plant safety, essentially the addition of a bunkered control room and replacement of the reactor protection system (RPS). The backfits were required by regulators in the wake of an incident in late 1987 but have been delayed.
Industry sources said that senior management at RWE AG is increasingly concerned that costly backfitting would render the reactors economically uncompetitive with fossil fuelled-generating plants in the RWE portfolio. The twin 1,300-MW PWRs have already served about half their anticipated lifetime of 40 years, and nagging licensing delays may postpone the fixes until about 2003-2005, when the reactors will be 30 years old.
RWE agreed to build a separate bunkered emergency control system able to shut down either or both reactors in a station blackout.
At the time, RWE management estimated the cost of such a system at about DM 500 million (US$ million 347). According to one industry source this week, the safety system project, which has been enlarged to include a new RPS, will now cost "at least that much,"indicating that the price tag might be as high as DM 800 million ($566 million).
Biblis-A began operating in 1974, Biblis-B, in 1976. Even assuming that permitting proceeds smoothly - not a sound assumption based on Hesse´s track record of strife with the utility - it will be at least 2002 before the new safety system is installed.
One senior German utility official said that if the two units are assumed to operate until about 2015, paying DM 800-million for safety upgrades now "would represent a comparatively bad investment." The investment cost would only be justified, he qualified, if Biblis could be operated for 50-60 years.
Biblis-A has been off-line since mid-1995. According to plan manager Klaus Distler, the reactor cannot restart unless Hesse, ruled by an SPD-Green coalition government opposed to nuclear power, agrees to an RWE proposal to address a leak in one of four primary circuit isolation valves, detected last July.
According to an official in RWE´s nuclear power operations division, the utility applied for a first partial construction permit (TEG-1) for the emergency control system about six years ago, but Hesse has delayed processing the application. He said RWE "expects"to obtain the license for the bunkered control system from Hesse sometime in 1996.
The second half of the project, including installation of the RPS, is covered by a second license (TEG-2), still under consideration.


During inspections at unit-A three small leaks were found in austenitic primary circuit piping, connecting the ECCS to the RCS. The leaks are close to the valves at the interface of the two systems, which control flow during primary pressure loss.


The Ministry of Environment of Hesse said last week it has found major deficiencies in licensing for Biblis-A and warned RWE it will shut the unit at the end of 1995 unless RWE applies for new licenses. RWE & Hesse blame each other for delays in carrying out the safety program ( a catalog of 55 safety issues which a pronuclear government compiled in 1991).


Biblis-A was off-line, when a technical safety investigation of a hairline crack in a primary circuit isolation valve mushroomed into a legal battle between RWE and Hesse. The state is ruled by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens committed to exhausting all legal possibilities to phase out nuclear power there.
The "paper war" dates back to 1994. At that time, Hesse tried to shut the reactor indefinitely by raising generic questions about reactor safety. The questions included a 50-plus-item checklist complied by the previous, pronuclear Hesse government that resulted from a utility-regulatory row over utility handling of a loss-of-coolant accident precursor event in 1987.


At Biblis B a 20 mm long crack in a 50 mm diameter feedline for cleaned reactor coolant into the primary circuit lead to leakage from primary circuit. Location was between the RCS and the first isolation valve, therefore the leak could not be isolated. 4 tons/hour steam & water were released into the containment.
Shutdown for 3 month.
RWE reported that shock absorbing supports prevented the affected pipe section from normally expanding in the course of reactor operation. Reports from Oeko-Onstitut Darmstadt, Speidel (metallurgist at the TU Zuerich) and the TUV reached the conclusion that the cyclical stress caused by temperature variations was cause of the crack and its growth.
RWE must prepare a NDE concept for supports and absorbers. Temperature sensors will be installed at the relevant part and RWE plans to eliminate temperature differences at this pipe sections .
Restart: 24-5-95


ECCS maintenance during plant's shutdown revealed a broken spindle on a valve. Level 1 because of Qualitiy Assurence deficiencies.


Leak in an austenitic pipe of pressure and volume regulation system. Inspection revealed several cracks in the piping - probably caused by water chemistry.


Short circuit in the motor of an auxiliary oil pump of the hydraulic turbine control system led to an automatic shutdown during restart of the plant.


Fire in the MCP room at unit-A. 70 firefighters (most fom outside the plant) could not stop the fire. When all maintenance workers have been evacuated from containment the fire was extinguished by containment spray. This incident occured in the middle of an argument between the Environmental Ministry of Hessen and the Federal Government about further operation of the plant. Hessen claimed it should stay down because of safety lacks, especially regarding the fire protection. The fire occured only some days after the Federal Government released an operation permit.


During repair outage, human error led to loss of power to important I&C equipment.


Emergency power: failure of switches between unit A and B.


Leak in the ECCS between first and second isolation valve at unit-B, discovered during inspection.


Angra-1 has experienced numerous operational problems and went offline frequently during 33 month of pre-commercial testing. The unit has gone through 24 outages since it began commercial operation, including a 16-month shutdown to repair a fire-damaged electrical generator and to modify the SG. Since returning from that outage in Oct. 1988 Angra has shut 4 times for repairs, including a month-long outage in May to clean in-core instrumentation guide tubes.