18 February 2015

Doel‑1 in Belgium Closed

Doel-1 in Belgium Closed

The Belgian reactor Doel-1 was closed on 15 February 2015. Belgian legislation requires the permanent shutdown of nuclear reactors after 40 years of operation. Doel-1, a 433 MWe Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR), had been first connected to the grid on 28 August 1974, but reached commercial operation—determining the operational lifetime—only on 15 February 1975.

Electrabel is attempting to receive a permission to restart Doel-1 and extend operation of Doel-2, scheduled for closure on 1 December 2015, arguing exceptional circumstances triggering the need for the units, as it has argued successfully for a lifetime extension of the Tihange-1 unit. In 2012, the Belgian government decided to confirm the scheduled complete nuclear phase-out until 2025, but to authorize the continued operation for a 10-year period of Tihange-1.

Electrabel, a 100% subsidiary of GDF-Suez, is in an exceptional situation as two additional of its seven reactors are down with decreasing chances to ever get restarted. Doel-3 and Tihange-2 have experienced an unprecedented history involving the detection of thousands of crack indications in their pressure vessels. [For further information, see EnerWebWatch open-access special page providing links to all key primary documents since the original detection of the problem in 2012]. Only two days prior to the Doel-1 closure, the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control (AFCN) stated in a press release that the number of identified defects in the pressure vessels of both reactors had increased by several thousand: “This means that Electrabel now has to take into account 13,047 flaw indications for Doel 3 and 3,149 flaw indications for Tihange 2 in its calculations.” Jan Bens, head of the Belgian Safety Authority AFCN, declared: “This is possibly a worldwide problem for the whole nuclear sector. The solution lies in carrying out detailed inspections in all 430 nuclear power plants worldwide”. Few nuclear operators around the world have thus far initiated similar inspection programs.

The Doel-1 closure brings the number of operational units in the world back to 390, the level seen at the beginning of the year, before a new Chinese reactor had been connected to the grid on 12 January 2015.