Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Thousands of cracks found in Belgian nuclear power plant

Belgium’s nuclear safety chief, Willy De Roovere, on Thursday (16 August) said there could be thousands of cracks in the reactor vessel of the ageing Doel 3 nuclear reactor situated 25 km outside Antwerp and 3 km from the Dutch border.

The inspector said the cracks are parallel to the surface of the walls and pose no immediate threat but the large number has left him concerned, reports AFP. Repairs, he noted, would be almost impossible.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Thousands of cracks were found in unit 3 of the Doel nuclear power plant in Belgium (Photo: Inge)

It is in the reactor vessel that the water of the main primary system flows through the core, where it is heated by the nuclear fuel.

The cracks, which possibly date back to the reactor's construction some 40 years ago, were discovered using ultra-sound during inspections in June and July.

Belgium’s nuclear regulator, the federal agency for nuclear control (FANC), said the reactor is in shutdown mode for inspections and its fuel has been discharged.

The reactor poses no threat to the population, workers or the surrounding environment, stated FANC. The agency says the cracks had only now been discovered because the ultra-sound inspection had never before been carried out.

The announcement follows a meeting in Brussels on Thursday organised by FANC along with nuclear experts from the United States, France, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

"We are considering these flaw indications very seriously and they were the focus of the international meeting of the nuclear safety authorities held today," said the FANC in statement.

Dutch company Droogdok Maatschapij (DRM), which is no longer in business, built the Doel 3 reactor vessel. The company also built another 21 casings for other reactors around the world.

These include another one for Belgium's Tihange 2 reactor, two in The Netherlands, two in Germany, two in Spain, one in Sweden, two in Switzerland, 10 in the United States and one in Argentina, reports Belgium's Le Soir newspaper.

Belgium has since shut down the Doel 3 but aim to reportedly restart the reactor in October. Authorities also aim to shut down its Tihange 2 reactor for one week.

The vessel at Tihange 2 will undergo the same type of inspection in mid-August as the one carried out on Doel 3. Both were constructed by DRM in the 1970s, said the FANC.

"I wish to point out that Doel 3 and Tihange 2 are currently in shutdown mode and as such, there is no danger for the population, the workers and the environment," said Roovere.

Belgium passes EU nuclear stress tests

The EU initiated nuclear stress tests on all of Europe's 143 reactors in April 2011 in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in March.

The tests were meant to assess whether a EU-based nuclear power plant could withstand, for instance, natural disasters such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks.

FANC submitted its peer-reviewed EU stress tests on Belgium's reactors in April 2012, two months before the cracks were discovered.

"The assessments of the robustness of the plants and situations taken into account are considered adequate. In general, the robustness of the facilities is considered satisfactory by Belgian regulatory body," says the report.

The report noted, however, that further tests are needed to truly assess the impact of earthquakes and other severe weather conditions.

FANC says the cracks were not highlighted in the stress tests because they focused solely on extreme external phenomena.

"Results of the stress tests are still perfectly valid. In any case they had an altogether different purpose," says FANC.

Belgium’s nuclear reactors are managed by Electrabel, a company of the GDF-SUEZ Energy and Services Group.

Nuclear stress tests fail EU scrutiny

Twenty-six years to the day after the Chernobyl disaster, the European Commission has said Europe's nuclear stress tests lack essential data.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Greece and creditors prepare bailout exit
  2. EU stands by Palestine on Jerusalem
  3. MEPs may bar killer drones from EU research cash
  4. Europe's social democrats are having a hard time
  5. How Oettinger's CO2 permit sale could fill Brexit blackhole
  6. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  7. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on agenda This WEEK
  8. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap