The Belgian government has announced the complete schedule for the forced closure of the country's nuclear power plants, claiming that the move will "create a favourable investment climate" to replace the 50% of domestic power supply that stands to be lost.
Political shutdown dates for four reactors were announced at the end of last week, complimenting those for three units announced on 4 July. Together they will see all the Belgian units close between 2015 and 2025, roughly in line with their 40th anniversaries, despite a previously determined policy that operation of older units to 50 years was in the country's best interests. Only one unit, Tihange 1, is permitted to operate to 50 years of age; an exception made specifically to avoid blackouts, said the government.
The government said that it had rewritten the 2003 law on nuclear energy so that its current stance could not be changed by decree, and therefore the timing of the phase-out "is now final." This certainty "should create a favourable investment climate which will allow us to gradually phase out nuclear power," it said.
As the owner and operator of the country's nuclear power plants, Electrabel disagrees. On 5 July it described the new shutdown dates as "blackmail", complaining that the attacks on the company and its 7000 staff were not justified. It also pointed out that operation of Tihange 1 to 2025 would require €500 million ($604 million) investment to satisfy safety regulators - an investment that would be hard to justify without "a vision and guarantees of profitability in ten years."
The government's latest statement also said the "favourable investment climate" would allow it to "achieve ambitious goals... in terms of security of supply, environment and price." However, the capacity of the nuclear units set to close totals 5943 MWe, and at the moment they provide over 50% of the country's domestically produced electricity. The second biggest source of electricity is gas at 32%, while all renewables combined currently provide 7%. The latter should grow to 13% by 2020 under European Union targets, leaving rapid expansion of fossil fuels as the only feasible way to replace nuclear power. No justification for the nuclear phase-out has been offered by the government, which is formed of some eight political parties in coalition - two of them Green.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News