Belgian utility Electrabel has changed the schedule for a planned outage at unit 1 of its Tihange nuclear power plant to ensure the country's demand for electricity during the coming winter can be met. Three of Belgium's seven reactors are currently offline.
|Unit 1 of the three-unit Tihange plant (Image: Electrabel)
Electrabel, part of the GDF-Suez group, said that it had decided to modify the schedule for Tihange 1's planned ten-year overhaul "to ensure that the plant will be available before the beginning of the winter in order to contribute to the security of supply."
The maintenance and modernization outage was originally planned to take place at Tihange 1 between 30 August and 7 November 2014. It will now be divided into two phases. The first phase will run between 30 August and 16 October and will involve refuelling and safety inspections. Work related to the 962 MWe pressurized water reactor's life extension will also be started during this period. The unit began operating in 1975 has been authorized to continue operating until 2025. The second phase, primarily intended to continue the life extension work, will take place between 6 June and 31 July 2015.
Reactors remain offline
Belgium could face electricity shortages in the coming winter as three of its seven reactors - which provide about half of the country's power - are currently offline for safety checks. All seven reactors are operated by Electrabel.
"The tests [at Doel 3 and Tihange 2] are making good progress and it is totally premature to draw conclusions from them. The first partial results do not in any case allow us to anticipate a definitive shut down."
Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were taken offline in 2012 when ultrasound testing suggested the possible presence of cracks in their reactor vessels. Further investigations indicated that the defects are so-called hydrogen 'flakes' and were introduced during the manufacturing process. Belgium's Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) allowed Electrabel to restart the units last May, requesting that further tests be conducted to evaluate the effect over time of these flakes.
In March, Electrabel brought forward planned outages for the two units after additional tests on hydrogen flakes suggested these may affect the mechanical properties of their reactor vessels. These outages were originally expected to last about six weeks, but the reactors remain offline awaiting the results of further tests.
Electrabel dismissed recent media reports that claimed the tests had already shown that the units would need to be permanently shut down. It said, "The tests are making good progress and it is totally premature to draw conclusions from them. The first partial results do not in any case allow us to anticipate a definitive shut down." It added, "Once tests are completed, a report will be sent to the FANC, which will in turn decide on the restart of the power plants."
Meanwhile, Electrabel has said that Doel 4 will remain out of operation until at least the end of this year following "significant damage" to its turbine resulting from a loss of lubricating oil. Initial inspections found that the lubricant had been discharged through a valve which had probably been left open by a worker.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News