Despite multiple shortcomings: Belgium extends the service life of two nuclear power plants

Despite several shortcomings
Belgium extends lifespan of two nuclear power plants

Belgium has actually been wanting to phase out nuclear energy for two decades, but there is no end to it. The government now agrees to extend the lifespan of two nuclear power plants. One of them is close to Germany – the neighbor has been critical of the pile for many years.

The Belgian government and the energy company Engie have agreed to extend the service life of the two nuclear power plants Tihange 3 and Doel 4 by an additional ten years. “With these decisions, work on the extension of the two youngest nuclear power plants can start tomorrow,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at a press conference.

The extension is crucial to ensure security of energy supply over the next ten years. According to De Croo, half of the Belgian state and half of the operator Engie should participate in the project. The Belgian government had already decided in March last year that the Tihange 3 reactor near the German border (about 60 kilometers from Aachen) and the Doel 4 reactor near Antwerp should continue to run until at least the end of 2035.

The implementation was still being negotiated with the operator Engie. A nuclear phase-out was originally planned for 2025. The Ukraine war and its effects on Belgium and neighboring countries played a role in the decision. According to a statement, the aim is now to put the two reactors back into operation in winter 2026 after the work required for the extension.

Germany is critical of Belgian nuclear power plants

In Germany, the Belgian nuclear reactors from the 1970s and 1980s repeatedly sparked debate. Several defects were found in the reactors in the neighboring country, such as dilapidated concrete parts. In the past, the city of Aachen and the federal government have called for the nuclear power plants to be shut down.

Tihange 3 was last unexpectedly taken off the grid in October 2022. According to the operator, the reason was a drop in pressure in one of the three steam generators. Engie said the shutdown would have no impact on the safety of the facilities or employees.

In Belgium, the nuclear phase-out was actually laid down in law in 2003, but the debate has dragged on for years. Six reactors are still connected to the grid, a seventh was switched off last year.

The Netherlands is building two new nuclear power plants

The German-Belgian neighbor Netherlands announced in December that it would build two new nuclear power plants in the Borssele municipality in the province of Zeeland. It is about 200 kilometers from the German border in close proximity to Belgium. A nuclear power plant has been in operation in Borssele for decades – currently the only one in the Netherlands. The final decision should be made by the end of 2024. Rotterdam is also being discussed as a possible location. Eemshaven on the Ems estuary not far from Lower Saxony is out of the race.

The new power plants are expected to be completed by 2035. With a capacity of 1000 to 1650 megawatts, the reactors are expected to supply nine to 13 percent of Dutch electricity production. As the ministry explained, the service life of the existing nuclear power plant in Borssele is to be extended beyond 2033.

Nuclear energy has not played a major role in the Netherlands so far. The country covers a large part of its energy needs with natural gas from the province of Groningen in the north. By 2030, wind power and solar energy should ensure 80 percent of the energy supply. The new nuclear power plants are intended to help close the remaining supply gap.

source site-34