Monday

18th Jun 2018

Belgian nuclear reactors get 10 extra years of life

  • Doel power plant in Belgium. Two of its reactors, scheduled to go offline this year, will continute to operate until 2025 (Photo: Remflex)

Two Belgian nuclear reactors which were supposed to retire this year at age 40, will remain operational until they are half a century old.

Federal energy minister Marie Christine Marghem said the longer lifespan, until 2025, was necessary to ensure security of electricity supply in Belgium.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

The Belgian government announced that negotiations with energy company Electrabel on the life extension of reactors Doel 1 and 2 have been concluded on Wednesday (29 July).

However, critics say that the unexpected U-turn from a previous government's commitment to close the reactors is putting off investors.

The sense of urgency that Belgium needed to up its energy security was partly strengthened by failures in other nuclear reactors.

About half of Belgium's electricity supply comes from its seven nuclear reactors. Three of them were offline for months on end in 2014, another two suffered from temporary shutdowns.

Reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2, which each supply around 1,000 megawatt – around 13 percent of Belgium's electricity – have been unavailable for more than a year now, because of a repair of “microcracks” in the pressure vessels. They are scheduled to restart 1 November 2015

The temporary loss of part of the nuclear power, combined with a possibility of a harsh winter, caused concern last autumn that Belgium could be faced with blackouts.

Board games to save electricity

The Belgian government called on citizens to reduce electricity consumption, play board games instead of computer games and cook meals in one pan instead of several.

It also set up plans to pre-emptively disconnect selected areas when a local power shortage was expected to jeopardise the whole grid.

“In the end, nothing bad happened, because it wasn't a cold winter,” energy researcher Fabio Genoese told this website. But the government did not exaggerate the potential problems, he added.

“It was a critical situation, for sure”, said Genoese, a research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

However, he said that for the coming winter, it is “statistically unlikely” that there will be another combination of reactors offline for maintenance and cold temperatures.

According to Belgian media, minister Marghem last month said that there would be no need to worry for electricity shortages this winter.

The decision to extend the lifetime of Doel 1 and 2 is set to create a surplus capacity.

And because in 2003 the Belgian government decided to phase out nuclear power plants, starting with the retirement of Doel 1 and 2 (433 megawatt each) this year, investors in gas supplies had expected there would be demand for their product.

Not good for investors

“This is a typical example of an unexpected policy intervention which is not good for the investment framework,” noted Genoese.

In December, he told EUobserver that the "problem of Belgian politics" was to blame for the blackout scare, with its multiple layers of government and the limited shelf life of the average Belgian coalitions.

“You had so many energy ministers, from different political parties, [each] putting their political view in energy policy. … People do not trust the framework enough to do investments,” he said then.

Now, the researcher said the government decision to continue with Doel 1 and 2 will decrease investors' trust even more. "You cannot rely on this", he said.

His analysis is similar to what energy commissioner Maros Sefovic is expected to say in October, when he will speak to Belgian representatives on his 'Energy Union tour'.

According to a draft paper of the Commission's analysis of the Belgian energy system, leaked two months ago, the EU's executive said one of the country's weaknesses is: “Insufficient regulatory and planning stability delays investments in electricity production and infrastructure".

Opinion

Lessons from Fukushima for EU energy policy

Five years on from the Fukushima disaster, Japan, the UK, and other EU states should commemorate victims by opting for safe and renewable energy over the genie's bottle of nuclear power.

EU struggles with cost of nuclear clean-up

Member states will need to spend €253 billion by 2050 to clean up their old reactors. They have so far put aside only half of that figure, according to an EU report.

News in Brief

  1. EU-Australia trade talks kick off in Brussels next month
  2. France and Germany moving closer to eurozone reform
  3. Merkel to meet Conte to find migration compromise
  4. Seehofer gives Merkel time to strike EU migration deal
  5. Schroeder and Sarkozy appear with Putin at World Cup
  6. Tennis champ and 'EU diplomat' claims immunity
  7. Italy threatens to ditch EU-Canada free trade deal
  8. EU institutions agree EU-wide rights for asylum seekers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  7. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  8. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  11. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model

Latest News

  1. Tear gas bodes ill for Macedonia name deal
  2. Asylum applications drop in EU, Germany registers most
  3. EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too
  4. Basque threat of 'second front' for independence
  5. Progressive regulation needed now for 21st century finance
  6. Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK
  7. How Italy's government might hijack EU migration policy
  8. The EU cannot shape the future of AI with regulation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  3. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  4. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  6. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  7. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  9. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  11. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us