Belgium closes a reactor at the Doel power plant

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

The operator Engie will shut down one of the four reactors of the Doel nuclear power plant, located in the port of Antwerp (north) on the Scheldt, on Friday, September 23, 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 that originally called for the closure by 2025 of the seven reactors that supply about half of the country’s needs.

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As deadlines loom, doubt seems to be winning over the federal government, which is divided on the issue, while rising energy costs are putting pressure on homes 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.

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian Democrat) reignited tensions last week by asking the Belgian nuclear safety authority (FANC) if it would be possible to postpone the decommissioning operation at Doel 3 if a restart is envisaged. of the reactor 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”, reported Agence France, a spokesman for Engie, who stressed that it 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 shutdown 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 country’s last three nuclear reactors to be expanded 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 indicated that it does not foresee supply risks linked to this “stop that was planned”. “We have enough production capacity available to meet demand”a spokesman told AFP.

Greenpeace says 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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