This Is How You Decommission a Nuclear Power Plant

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called time on nuclear energy in her country in 2011, after a tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima power plant in Japan, causing a major radioactive leak. Almost five years later, that process is in full swing – with an estimated cost of up to €77 billion ($84 billion). The operation to decommission Germany’s Greifswald nuclear power plant is described by German energy officials as the largest project of its kind in the world. Once the largest power plant in the former East Germany, Greifswald was closed in 1990 during German reunification. This is how it is being made safe. Photographs by Krisztian Bocsi for Bloomberg


Germany's nuclear plant operators are seeking public agreement on how to manage the burden of decommissioning the country's atomic power stations. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government decided in 2011 to phase out nuclear power by 2022 in light of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. 

A shift to renewable energy has resulted in slumping wholesale power prices, hurting earnings at traditional power plants.  

The decommissioning process could force those footing the bill to set aside anything from €25 billion to €77 billion, according to scenarios.

Germany's Economy Ministry believes that utility companies do have enough funds to pay for the shutdown and cleanup of nuclear power plants.

Inside the plant, reminders of the dangers of radiation are easy to spot. A rack of dosimeters – used to measure radiation levels – are placed at the entrance of the ‘hot’ workshop, where contaminated components are broken down.

Dismantled components are hydro-blasted.

Radioactive waste is transported to a temporary storage facility.

Depending on the severity of contamination, some of the components will go on to be housed in temporary disposal sites before a final storage solution is found.

Red lights glow on the top of a chimney at Lubmin nuclear power plant.