Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

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.

... or 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. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  2. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  3. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  4. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  5. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  6. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'
  7. Luxembourg mockery of British leader sparks 'anger'
  8. Majority of Belgians against excluding Vlaams Belang

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us