Government to discuss postponing closure of Doel 3 nuclear reactor

Government to discuss postponing closure of Doel 3 nuclear reactor
Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

With the permanent shutdown of the Doel 3 nuclear reactor having been announced yesterday, the Federal Government is dithering on whether to delay its dismantling with the Federal Interior Minister leading calls for a potential postponement.

Given the energy crisis driven by the war in Ukraine, the Federal Government's plan to phase out nuclear power has had to be modified.

Of the six reactors currently active, both Doel 4 and Tihange 3 (originally set to be closed by 2025) have already been extended for a further 10 years, until 2035.

But now with Belgium and Europe facing ever more uncertainty about energy supply, certain members of the Federal Government are urging for the planned decommissioning of Doel 3 to be postponed.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Federal Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) has asked the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control to investigate whether the closure of Belgium's Doel 3 nuclear reactor can be delayed.

Translation of tweet: "In uncertain times, we need to be thoughtful about our energy supply. However, we do not make any compromises on safety. That is why I have asked the FANC to investigate whether preparations for the decommissioning of Doel 3 can be safely postponed."

Her view on the matter is said to be shared by the right-wing parties in the ruling coalition, which includes her own party, the Flemish Christian-Democrats CD&V, as well as both liberal parties, MR and the Open-VLD.

Parties on the political right point out that with nuclear accounting for 52% of Belgium's energy supply in 2021 (according to analysis by Elia, which operates Belgium's national grid), this would require an enormous supply of alternative energy. Though Belgium has made sizeable investments to expand its green energy, this would still not be sufficient to make up the shortfall.

With all of Europe pitched into an energy crisis, the need for a reliable energy supply will be essential to maintaining economic and social activity across the continent.

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However, despite a surge in pro-nuclear enthusiasm, supporters will have a tough time convincing the government's green parties to extend these reactors. Despite the fact that phasing out nuclear would likely entail falling back on far more polluting energy sources such as natural gas, green parties have been staunch opponents to nuclear energy for decades.

Furthermore, the current Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten is a political heavyweight within the Flemish Groen party, which currently plans to replace nuclear power with a mix of gas and renewable energies.

As a result, compromise on all ends will be required at Friday's Ministerial Council.

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