The Tihange 1 nuclear plant is “outdated” and “extremely dangerous”, German nuclear engineering expert Manfred Mertins said on Thursday during a press conference at the European Parliament. While Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, AFCN, gave the green light last week for the resumption of operations at Tihange 1 in the near future, Professor Mertins highlighted many vulnerable points which, he said, the plant has in the area of safety.
In a report he compiled at the request of the Greens in the European Parliament, Mertins stressed, first of all, that the plant failed to meet international requirements regarding safety and reliability.
Tihange 1 is one of the oldest nuclear plants in the world, Mertins wrote, noting that it was designed on the basis of safety principles that applied in the early 1970s. Accidents since then at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown that a significant increase in the safety requirements was necessary, he stressed, deploring the many failings observed at the Belgian plant.
The nuclear engineering expert argued that the sharp increase in unforeseen events at Tihange 1 were further evidence of the ageing of the plant, whose management he described as “completely erratic”.
In addition to the dangers related to the site’s design, Mertins added that Tihange 1 has only “limited” basic protection from the effects of external dangers such as floods, earthquakes or plane crashes. The expert, who studied only the technical aspects of the plant, was unable to give any idea of the cost of making the plant compliant. However, he said it was “practically impossible” to fix all the problems observed, given the age of Tihange 1.
His report will be submitted to the AFCN and the competent authorities in Belgium and in neighbouring countries, Green Euro-parliamentarian Rebecca Harms said. She added that, coming to the end of her tenure, she wished to draw public attention to the risks the old reactors in Belgium present.