BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's plans to delay the closure of two nuclear plants were thrown into confusion on Wednesday, with the operator of one saying the request to keep it on standby was not technically possible, but the government saying it had been misunderstood.
On Monday, Berlin announced plans to keep two of its three remaining nuclear power stations on standby to ensure enough electricity supply through the winter during a gas crunch.
However, E.ON, the operator of one of the plants, said it did not believe it was technically possible to put its Isar 2 facility in reserve mode beyond its scheduled closure at the end of 2022.
"We communicated on Monday evening that nuclear power plants are not suitable for reserve power plant operation for technical reasons," said E.ON, adding it was in contact with the government on the issue.
EnBW, which operates the other nuclear plant, Neckarwestheim 2, said it was also clarifying details and questions it had with the ministry and would weigh in on the suggested plans after looking at the technical and organisational feasibility.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said he was "somewhat bewildered" after receiving E.ON's letter, which cast doubt on the plan's workability.
Habeck said it seemed technicians at Preussen Elektra, which is responsible for operating and decommissioning E.ON's nuclear assets, did not understand that the plan did not involve turning nuclear power plants on and off repeatedly.
Energy state secretary Patrick Graichen said in a letter to E.ON, seen by Reuters, that it could not foresee what technical problems would arise from putting the plant on standby.
Either the standby proposal will be deemed necessary in December, in which case one or both reactors would remain in operation, or power stations could be restarted in January or February, said the letter.
E.ON was not immediately available to comment on the government's remarks.
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff, Markus Wacket and Holger Hansen; Writing by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Mark Potter; Editing by Miranda Murray)