Belgium closes a reactor at the Doel power plant

The Doel nuclear power plant near Antwerp, Belgium, in January 2016.

The operator Engie will turn off one of the four reactors of the Doel nuclear power plant, located in the port of Antwerp (North) in the Scheldt, on Friday, September 23 at around 9:00 p.m. It could only produce up to 10% of the country’s electricity.

The shutdown of the 40-year-old Doel 3 reactor has long been in the works. It is part of the Belgian nuclear exit plan approved in 2003, which originally called for the closure by 2025 of the seven reactors that supply about half of the country’s needs.

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However, as the deadlines approach, doubt appears to be winning over the federal government, which is divided on the issue, while rising energy costs are putting pressure on households and businesses. In March, it had already barely agreed to extend two of the seven nuclear reactors to 2036. Looking to the future, Belgium is not closing the door on new generation nuclear power.

The Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V, for Christen-Democratisch in Vlaams – “Flemish Christian Democrats”), reignited tensions last week by asking the Belgian nuclear safety authority (or AFCN, for the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control) whether it would be possible to postpone the Doel 3 decommissioning operation in the event of a a reactor restart. was scheduled for a later date.

Deputy Prime Minister for the Environment Petra De Sutter told herself “shocked” for this questioning of the calendar “a few days before the closing of operations”.

“No technically irreversible operation”

“The reactor will be permanently shut down and therefore is not scheduled to be restarted”For its part, an Engie spokesman informed Agence France-Presse (AFP), who said that he had not received any request from the government in this regard. For its part, the FANC responded to Mme Verlinden that a decision ” very late “ The expansion of the reactor was not “it is not a sign of good governance” and she couldn’t “does not guarantee that a late and unprepared scenario does not pose a risk to nuclear security”.

The pro-nuclears demonstrated in Doel in the morning to demand the maintenance of the reactor. “In working order”. In theory, a reactor restart would not be impossible. After the stop, on Friday night, the preparatory work will last about five years before the decommissioning of the reactor. “No technically irreversible operation takes place during this first phase”, recognized the director of the plant, Peter Moens. But he felt that a postponement or reversal of the process would not be “neither wise nor advised” for technical and operational reasons, citing in particular the lack of fuel and personnel.

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The Belgian debate echoes that in Germany, where conservative and liberal politicians are calling for the extension of the country’s last three nuclear reactors beyond the end of 2022, the scheduled date for their closure. For now, Berlin has simply agreed to keep two reactors on standby until spring 2023 to deal with possible emergencies.

In Belgium, the electricity transmission system operator Elia has said that it does not expect any supply risk related to this “stop that was planned”. “We have enough production capacity available to meet demand”a spokesman told AFP.

Greenpeace states, for its part, that “The closure of Doel 3 does not pose any problem for the security of supply and does not have a significant impact on the price of electricity”.

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The rise of renewable energies, solar and wind, including offshoreallowed the country to reach a record of exports in 2021. Gas power plants represented a quarter of the energy matrix.

The world with AFP

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