Belgium advised to extend Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear reactors

Belgium advised to extend Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear reactors
Doel nuclear power station. Credit: Dirk Waem/Belga

Belgium's nuclear watchdog has ruled out an extension of the Doel 1, 2 and Tihange 1 nuclear power plants, a proposal that would ensure the security of supply during the winters of 2025 and 2026. Instead, the regulatory body advises depending on the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors to avoid power shortages.

In recent weeks, the Federal Government has considered whether the three older nuclear power plants (Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1) should be extended to cover the 2025-2026 winters. But the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) advises only using the youngest nuclear plants, Le Soir reports.

Around the turn of the year, the Federal Government spent weeks negotiating with Engie (which operates Belgium's nuclear power plants) about the extension of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power plants. Eventually, it was agreed that the power plants would be ready by November 2026 to provide electricity for the years to come.

Yet this didn't address the issue of possible power shortages in the winters of 2025 and 2026, when the plants would be shut down for maintenance work. The Federal Government therefore proposed to keep Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 – normally scheduled to close in 2025 – open for longer.

'An opportunity'

Now, however, the FANC has suggested an alternative to resolve Belgium's energy concerns: using the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 power stations during the winters of 2025 and 2026. The planned works could be carried out during the 2026 maintenance allowing the plants to continue during the winter.

Although the FANC had already made this suggestion at the end of February, a more recent letter to the government, seen by De Morgen, shows that there has also been informal contact with Engie in the meantime. The company acknowledges that the FANC proposal provides "an opportunity... as long as the new nuclear fuel will be available."

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Meanwhile the FANC ruled that the government's previous plan would be difficult to fulfil. In either case, Engie opposes extending the three older power stations on grounds that they may not meet modern safety regulations. FANC agrees that the safety concerns are justified and "the alternative scenario is preferred in terms of nuclear safety."

On Monday, the Federal Government is holding an extra meeting on the issue and while it is expected they will follow FANC's analysis, that is not certain.

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