19 July 2012

Nuclear Phase‑out in Belgium : Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

On 4 July 2012, the Belgian Government confirmed the scheduled phase-out of two of the country’s seven reactors. The two oldest reactors, Doel-1 and -2 with 433 MW each, will be shut down in 2015 as stipulated by current legislation. However, operational lifetime of the 37-year old 962 MW Tihange-1 reactor, originally also scheduled to be disconnected from the grid by 2015, shall be extended by 10 years, « in order to avoid the risk that 500,000 to one million inhabitants are plunged into the dark at certain moments in winter ». In return, the output of 1,000 MW nuclear capacity shall be opened to the market « to increase competition between the providers ». These political decisions have yet to be confirmed by parliamentary vote to modify current legislation. The government move has raised a storm of protest from all sides. Nuclear operator GDF-Suez and its subsidiary Electrabel consider that a 2010 agreement with the government to extend the lifetimes by all three reactors in question was violated. The Belgian Green Party, which initiated the nuclear phase-out legislation in 2002-03, declared that « absolutely nothing imposes such an extension for one of the three oldest reactors ». And Greenpeace Belgium condemned the Tihange-1 decision as « irresponsible and dangerous ».