German Vattenfall boss resigns over nuclear incidents

The head of Vattenfall Europe, the German-based arm of Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, has offerd to resign following a series of incidents, including a fire, at two of the group's nuclear power plants in Germany, the company said Wednesday.

Vattenfall Europe chief Klaus Rauscher “has asked to leave his post. The supervisory board will decide the next steps at an extraordinary meeting,” Vattenfall Europe said in a statement.

Rauscher has come under fire for the company’s opaque communication policy on two recent incidents at nuclear power stations in Krümel and in Brunsbüttel, both in northern Germany.

The head of Vattenfall Europe’s nuclear division, Bruno Thomauske, and communiciations chief Johannes Altmeppen have already left their posts in the wake of the scandal.

German officials have accused Vattenfall of failing to report the full extent of a fire at the Krümmel plant and neglecting for days to inform authorities of problems operators experienced at nearby Brunsbüttel.

Vattenfall initially said the fire at the Krümmel plant had been isolated from the atomic reactor, but according to officials in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, the flames had reached the building housing the reactor.

The fire broke out just two hours after operators were forced to temporarily shut down the Brunsbüttel plant because its capacity had overloaded.

Regional authorities claim that they were only told on July 6 that the water purification system at the nuclear reactor cooler at Brunsbüttel cut out twice as technicians tried to restart the reactor.

Vattenfall has strongly denied that it sought to cover up the extent of the problems, but the incidents have caused an outcry in a country that is deeply divided over whether it should be using nuclear energy at all.

Germany has begun a long-term phase-out of its nuclear energy programme and expects to mothball its last plant around 2020.