ENGIE Electrabel, one of the companies that blazed the trail for nuclear energy in Belgium, was asked by the Belgian government to see if its three oldest reactors, all of which are slated to cease operation by 2025, can remain in use until around 2027.
According to Belgian energy ministry spokesperson Jonas Dutordoir, this comprehensive inspection, and evaluation of the reactors’ extended operability was spurred on by the ongoing power crisis precipitated by the war in Ukraine as well as the issues recently encountered by the French nuclear power sector. Aside from seeing whether or not the country can go on using these power plants, the inspection is one of many ways by which Belgium is trying to mitigate future risks to its national power supply.
The Belgian government refers to the proposed delayed shutdown of the reactors in question as “micro extensions” as these would not necessarily be in use for the full length of the year.
Instead, the nuclear reactors Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 will be made to produce less electricity throughout the summer months to ensure a steady supply of electricity well through the winters of 2025, 2026, and 2027.
Doel 1 and 2 are 445 MWe pressurized water reactors that began operation in the mid-’70s; the former was slated for shutdown in February 2025 and the latter in December of the same year. Tihange 1, on the other hand, is a 962 MWe pressurized water reactor that began operating in 1975 and is set to close in 2025 after 50 years in operation.
That said, the proposed inspection will involve a safety assessment of all three reactors, the findings of which will be reported to the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control by next month.
How Much of Belgian Power is Nuclear?
Nuclear plants are responsible for generating nearly half of Belgium’s total electricity. However, a federal law passed on January 31st, 2003 mandated that all nuclear power-producing plants and equipment need to be phased out by 2025.
But the ongoing energy crisis raging throughout the continent prompted the government to sign a new agreement with ENGIE Electrabel geared towards restarting the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors three years from now, then operating them for ten more years. Both plants are scheduled for shutdown in 2025, along with Doel 1 and 2 whose operating licenses were extended back in 2014.