Kalkar's sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor prototype, a bad joke (Germany)

The SNR-300, a prototype fast breeder reactor to be built at Kalkar, near the Rhine, was not put into operation because of strong protests. The site and some buildings were turned into Wunderland Kalkar, an amusement park.

Between 1957 and 1991, West Germany tried to build a fast breeder reactor, a 300 MW prototype near Kalkar, on the Rhine. It was known as the SNR-300, the Schneller Natriumgekühlter Reaktor, i.e. to be cooled by Sodium, and as dangerous as the one at the Superphenix at Creys-Malville in France that was also closed down after being built at great expense. Construction began in April 1973. The spirit of the times is well captured in a chronicle by Alice Siegert (in The Chicago Tribune, 1 August 1977). Reporting from Kalkar she wrote: "People in this quaint, 750 year old town in the lower Rhine still walk on cobblestone pavement ... But north of the town limits, where black-and-white cattle graze in green pastures, the 21st Century has begun. On land bought from the Catholic Church, the concrete outer shelss of a 1 billion, plutonium-based, fas breeder reactor were recently completed. The 300 megawatt prototype is being financed by the West German, Duthch and Belgian governments. Eventually it will serve as a model for a 1200 megawatt commercial reactor...  European governments believe that the third-generation, sodium-cooled fast breeders, which reproduce their own fuel, will... make Europeans less dependent on imported fuels". There were at the time  large anti-nuclear demonstration at Whyl and Brokdorf, and also at Kalkar. In September 1977 a demonstration  led to a complete closure of autobahnen in northern Germany. Before the Greens were founded in Germany, militants were already active.  Petra Kelly was a speaker at the first demonstration in 1975 against the reactor in Kalkar. Construction of the Kalkar reactor had advanced by 1985, but political opposition in the state and the aftermath of the Chernobyl's accident (in April 1986) caused the federal government to go back and announce in 1991 that the reactor would not be put into  operation. It appears that the original costs finally escalated to US$4 billion. Nuclear materials were sold or sent off for free to France and the United States.  Showing a peculiar sense of humour, the nuclear plant has been turned into an amusement park, Wunderland Kalkar, one main attraction being climbing the cooling tower and coasting down from it.  The Kalkar case is also famous because on December 18, 1972, licensing authorities granted a first partial construction permit for the SNR-300 fast breeder nuclear power station and the owner of a farm within a mile of the station sued to have the reac-tor’s license revoked. In view of the awesome implications for public safety and the rights of citizens involved in the production and recycling of plutonium, there was an appeal that went up to the Constitutional Court, that said that not specific norms of safety should be established by law, given the level of uncertainty regarding risks. After all, Kalkar was only a prototype. 
Basic Data
NameKalkar's sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor prototype, a bad joke (Germany)
ProvinceNorth-Rhine Westfalia
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Nuclear
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Nuclear power plants
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Nuclear waste
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
As reported by WISE (News Communiqe 100): In 1981 police violence stopped construction of anti-nuclear village at Kalkar. People planned to build a summer anti-nuclear village near the construction site of the fast breeder reactor at Kalkar (Germany). Plans, however, had to be postponed because the police kept confiscating their building materials. Twelve protesters were injured by police attacks during those days. In total, 800 activists participated in the festival. Construction of the sodium-cooled fast breeder in Kalkar had begun in 1973 as a project of West Germany (72%), Netherlands and Belgium (both 14%). In 1977, 50,000 people had demonstrated against the fast breeder project.
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)50
Level of Investment (in USD)4,000,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population1,000,000
Start Date1971
End Date1991
Company Names or State Enterprises Interatom from Germany
Siemens from Germany
Relevant government actorsGovernment of West Germany (Willy Brandt, prime minister)

Government of Nord Rhein Wesphalen

Constitutional Court of West Germany
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBürger initiative Kalkar-Hönnepel (from 1971)


Green militants

Weltbund zum Schutz des Lebens

Öko-Institut, Freiburg (founded after the anti-nuclear Wyhl struggle)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Other Environmental impacts
OtherPotential risk of nuclear accident
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesThe Kalkar breeder reactor was not built. The present amusement park at the site is a joke.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Grassroots opposition, political opposition, the Chernobyl accident (1986) and the very large cost overruns, all had an influence in giving up the ill-considered plans to build a breeder-reactor. Kalkar must be seen as one of the German early successful cases of opposition to nuclear energy, together with Wyhl (near Freiburg). .
Sources and Materials

Kalkar Case I (1978) – 49 BVerfGE 89, translated by Donald P. Kommers
[click to view]


Joachim Radkau, Eine kurze Geschichte der deutschen Antiatomkraftbewegung, APUZ, 46-47, 2011 (an account over 40 years of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany until its victory in 2011 after Fukushima, including one page on Kalkar).
[click to view]


Alice Siegert, Europe building fast breeder reactor, The Chicago Tribune, 1 August 1977
[click to view]

Media Links

WISE, Then and Now. Nuclear Monitor Issue: #499-500
[click to view]

In Le Monde, 9 Nov. 2011, an article describing the movement from Wyhl (success) to Brokdorf (defeat) and Kalkar (success), and Gorleben. The German anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Kalkar amusement park
[click to view]

Meta Information
Contributorjoan martinez alier
Last update03/08/2016