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Belgium Shuts Two Nuclear Reactors Amid Safety Concerns

By Countercurrents.org

17 September, 2012

Amidst safety concern Belgium has shut down two of its nuclear reactors last month.

EurActiv.com [1] and euronews [2] reported:

Belgium’s nuclear regulator questioned the safety of the Electrabel-operated Doel 3 reactor due to cracks in the pressure vessels that have already forced the shutdown of a similar unit at the Tihange nuclear plant.

Belgium halted the 1,006-megawatt Doel 3 reactor after the discovery of suspected cracks in the pressure vessel.

The Belgian agency BELGA reported that Tihange 2 was halted on Aug. 16. The reactor at the Tihange power plant has been closed down following signs that cracks have developed in the structure.

Both structures were manufactured in the 1970s by Dutch company RDM which has since gone bankrupt.

Willy De Roovere, who heads the FANC regulator agency, said it was always hard for a company to meet a requirement to prove a nuclear plant is safe. He told a news conference that Electrabel, the Belgian unit of France’s GDF Suez, would have to show that "in a period of the remaining lifetime there is no single risk, there is no risk at all that cracks can go [on to produce leaks]."

A spokeswoman for Electrabel said, as quoted by Reuters: "Is it safe or not to continue the production of Doel 3? That's what we will have to prove to the FANC."

The Doel 3 reactor had been scheduled to close in 10 years' time, according to a nuclear exit plan the Belgian government adopted in July.

GDF Suez is expected to trim significantly its 47-year-old nuclear business now that Belgium, the only nation where it operates nuclear plants, is phasing out its reliance on atomic power.

Belgium has long considered a complete exit from nuclear energy, but that will depend on its having enough alternative sources of energy in place.

The European Commission has initiated a series of voluntary stress tests as part of efforts to ensure safety following Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster. They were meant to be completed before the Commission's August summer break, but governments have been given extra time for further assessments.

Günther Oettinger, the EU Energy Commissioner said he expected the stress tests to be completed in October and that they would include the assessment from regulators about risks associated with the possible cracks in the Belgian unit.


[1] http://www.euractiv.com/energy/belgium-shuts-nuclear-reactors-news-514321

[2] http://www.euronews.com/2012/09/14/concerns-at-belgium-s-nuclear-power-plant/




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