Saturday

24th Jun 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Border management going virtual

EU leaders at a summit in Brussels are set to endorse new border control measures, while the head of a Tallinn-based EU agency predicts a future where border management goes virtual.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

Opinion

Why Schengen deserves to be saved

Far-right parties around Europe have managed to turn the passport-free Schengen area into a game of political hot potato despite its numerous benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit