Bart De Wever, president of N-VA, has proposed forming a temporary majority with other parties to oppose the law that will shut down nuclear power in 2025.
N-VA is in opposition against a seven-party coalition, but De Wever is hoping enough votes from other parties on this one question could be enough to overturn the shutdown.
The move comes in a week when Engie Electrabel, the energy provider responsible for the seven nuclear power stations in Belgium – three at Doel in the port of Antwerp and four at Tihange in Liege province – said it would no longer maintain the stations, in the absence of a long-term government commitment to keep the generators going beyond 2025.
“If we switch to gas-fired power stations, we will become the most polluting energy producer after Poland,” De Wever said.
“Not to mention higher energy prices and energy insecurity. This is so disastrous that we should avoid it at all costs.”
The deadline for shutting down the generators is set for 2025, with a review of that decision to come by 2022. But Engie Electrabel has made it clear they are looking for a ten-year extension at the very least, anything less being not enough to justify the investment required. Having concluded the government is not likely to grant that extension, the company unilaterally decided to shut down anyway.
That would be disastrous, De Wever said, particularly for Flanders.
“We have the second largest petrochemical cluster in the world [in the port of Antwerp]. It eats up energy,” he said.
“These are companies for whom the price of energy is crucial. If we persist in the nuclear exit and shut down the nuclear power plants in a few years, we will only have half of our electricity capacity. Supply and price will come under pressure.”
In the negotiations to form a new government earlier this year, he said, the majority of parties were in favour of an extension of the life of the two most recent reactors. But at the same time as N-VA was shut out of the negotiations, French-speaking socialists PS and green parties Ecolo and Groen decided to go ahead with the shutdown.
N-VA holds 25 seats in the federal parliament, from a total of 150. The seven-party coalition has 88, an overall majority of 13. Assuming the far-left PVDA and far-right Vlaams Belang both came with him, De Wever would need to carry the French-speaking humanists cdH and Défi, and then swing 14 votes from the government parties to his side to form a majority on this one topic.
None of the Flemish parties has that many votes – sp.a has 9, Open VLD 12 and CD&V 12. And the revolt of any one of the parties would not bring down the government. Joachim Coens, president of CD&V, has already rejected De Wever’s offer.
Judging by the bare figures, De Wever’s resistance would appear to be more rhetorical than achievable.