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AFP
December 6, 2019

Europe’s oldest N-plant not ready to retire

World

AFP
December 6, 2019

BEZNAU, Switzerland: Europe’s oldest functioning nuclear reactor, at Switzerland’s Beznau plant, will turn 50 next week -- a lifespan deemed dangerously long by environmentalists who are demanding that it be shut down immediately.

Commercial operation began at the plant in the northern canton of Aargau, near the German border, on December 9, 1969 -- back when The Beatles were still together and a man had just walked on the Moon.

Fifty years later, a message in German is printed in white letters on a bright blue wall of the building housing Reactor 1: "Anniversary 1969-2019. 355,000 hours of service".

Beznau 1 is one of the very oldest reactors in operation today, following only reactors 1 and 2 at Tarapur in western India, which went online in October 1969, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"It’s a privilege to work here," Michael Dost, director of the plant run by Swiss power company Axpo, said during a media tour of Switzerland’s first nuclear plant earlier this year.

He said he was proud to work at such a productive monument of industrial history.

The plant’s two ageing reactors (Reactor 2 began operating in 1971) together still pump out around 6,000 gigawatts per year -- equivalent to twice the electrical consumption of Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich.

Showing off a command centre with large control panels and colourful buttons reminiscent of the 1960s, Dost insisted that the plant’s age was not an issue.

"A lot of work has been done here," he told AFP, noting that in recent decades "components have been altered and new equipment has been built, so we meet all technical requirements that can be placed on a nuclear plant."