25.09.2019 | The importance of the Beznau nuclear power plant in the Canton of Aargau

"Beznau – an engineering masterpiece"

Guests from politics, business and the energy industry met on the seventh largest island in Switzerland on 24 September 2019 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Beznau nuclear power plant. In his speech, Markus Dieth, State Councillor of the Canton of Aargau, emphasised the value of the plant and its strong roots in the region. Hans Wanner, Director of ENSI, pointed out that Beznau is safer than ever today.  

About 140 people attended the guest event on Beznau Island. The achievements of nuclear energy for the economy and society were recognised on the occasion of the 50-year anniversary of the Beznau nuclear power plant.

In his speech, Markus Dieth, Aargau State Councillor and since 2019 State Governor, said "Beznau is a technical masterpiece." He drew attention to that fact that in 1969 the plant was built without today's existing digital technologies and possibilities. That craftsmanship has remained reliable up to today. Since its commissioning, Beznau has produced power for the region reliably day and night. "Beznau is a valuable asset in the region," said Dieth and thanked Axpo and the current power plant director Mike Dost. To Dieth, nuclear energy is still a modern energy form. However, current trends must also be taken seriously and renewable energy must be expanded. Dieth then referred to Axpo's strong commitment as Switzerland's largest producer of renewable energies.

The current and two former power plant directors, from left to right, Mike Dost, Walter Nef, Urs Weidmann

Thanks to extensive upgrades, maintenance and modernisation investments amounting to over CHF 2.5 billion the plant fulfils all the specified regulatory and legal safety requirements. According to Hans Wanner, Director of the Supervisory Authority ENSI, the plant is safer than ever today. Technically the plant is everything but out-dated and the safety culture of the Beznau employees has always been very strong. Wanner referred to the extensive safety case that ENSI ordered from Axpo in 2016 owing to inclusions detected in the reactor pressure vessel. Thanks to the elaborate manufacture of a replica, the experts at Axpo were able to prove that the plant was still safe for continued operation. After a downtime of three years, Unit 1 went back on grid in the spring of 2018.

As the former mayor of Tegerfelden, Hans Wanner, Director of ENSI, has strong ties to the region.

The extensive upgrades will also benefit the Energy Strategy 2050 in the upcoming years, said Andy Heiz, Head of the business area Production and Grids at Axpo. "The transition from fossil energy to elec-tricity and the expansion of renewable energies require the continued operation of a proven nuclear power plant. This will ensure the security of supply for business and society in Switzerland. Switzerland will have – in part thanks to Beznau – more time to transition the power supply system without having to be at the mercy of power imports."

Andy Heiz, Head of the business area Production and Grids at Axpo, sees nuclear energy as a bridging technology in the Energy Strategy 2050.

In December 1969, the first Unit of Beznau went into commercial operation after a construction period of only four years. About 70 per cent of the work and supply contracts were awarded to Swiss companies. The driving factors for the use of nuclear energy were the foreseeable domestic production shortage and plans for the construction of oil-fired power plants. This created a broad political debate that created a wide consensus for the use of nuclear energy in Switzerland in view of climate protection. 

Andy Heiz pointed out that climate and environmental awareness already played an important role 50 years ago. Hence, it comes as no surprise that now in times of intensified climate discussions, the clear advantages of nuclear energy are once again becoming a topic. Along with hydropower, nuclear energy is the only major technology that can produce large quantities of power with minimal resource waste and with no CO2 emissions. He underpinned this statement with facts: "We calculated that in its 50 years of operation, Beznau saved over 300 million tonnes of CO2 in comparison with a brown coal-fired power plant."

«I am proud that we can continue to operate Beznau with the same vision, peace of mind and professionalism, with the same dedication and team spirit that were always the pillars of the Beznau culture»
Mike Dost, Director of Beznau

The evening's host, power plant director Mike Dost, was extremely pleased to welcome representatives from politics, business and the industry to Beznau island. People always come first for him: Beznau is a people business and the achievement of 50 years of safe operation was only possible because they all pulled and worked together at the plant. Dost emphasised that modesty and a strong safety culture were the most important elements to achieve this. 

The plant remains an affair of the heart for him: "Our predecessors built something amazing with a quality and precision that we still benefit from today. I feel absolutely privileged to direct this plant and to con-tinue to experience time and again how ingenious our predecessors were. It is my conviction: We have the responsibility to maintain our plant in top condition and develop it according to the state-of-the-art in science and technology."

Mike Dost, Director of Beznau, is proud of his team

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