Belgian-Dutch partnership for nuclear new build

17 March 2023

Belgian engineering firm Tractebel has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Netherlands' NRG-Pallas to collaborate in providing engineering services for the construction of large nuclear power plants in the Netherlands.

From left to right: Joost van den Broek, Director Consultancy & Services and Bertholt Leeftink, CEO, NRG-Pallas, Anick van Calste, Philippe Van Troeye, CEO, and Denis Dumont, Chief Global Nuclear Officer, Tractebel (Image: Tractebel)

The MoU was signed at the Embassy of Belgium in The Hague in the presence of the Belgian Ambassador Anick van Calster on the sidelines of the Belgium-Netherlands Nuclear Summit.

Nuclear power currently has a small role in the Dutch electricity supply, with the 485 MWe (net) Borssele pressurised water reactor providing about 3% of total generation. The plant has been in operation since 1973 and is scheduled to close in 2033.

In December 2021, the Netherlands' new coalition government placed nuclear power at the heart of its climate and energy policy. Based on preliminary plans, two new reactors will be completed around 2035 and each will have a capacity of 1000-1650 MWe. The two reactors would provide 9-13% of the Netherlands' electricity production in 2035. The cabinet announced in December 2022 that it currently sees Borssele as the most suitable location for the construction of the new reactors.

"Both firms have the capabilities and skills to support the conception, specification, design, licensing, operation, life-time extension and decommissioning of nuclear installations," Tractebel and NRG-Pallas said in a joint statement. "Jointly, Tractebel and NRG-Pallas form the ideal team to provide the requisite engineering services that will contribute to the nuclear new build programme in the Netherlands."

Tractebel - part of France's Engie Group - has more than 60 years of experience in nuclear engineering and acts as Owner's Engineer for the planned Pallas research reactor in the Netherlands. It has also contributed to the construction of nuclear power plants worldwide, including in Sweden, the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

The Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) is a leader in research into new nuclear technologies. NRG has more than 50 years of experience testing nuclear fuels, carrying out nuclear-technological research in various fields, including trial irradiations on nuclear materials and nuclear fuels, post-irradiation experiments, inspection methods, and high-quality simulations of behaviour displayed by nuclear components and reactors.

The Foundation Preparation Pallas-reactor was founded in 2013 and is responsible for obtaining a licensable design, obtaining private investors and constructing and operating the Pallas multifunctional research reactor. This will replace NRG's aging High Flux Reactor in Petten, the Netherlands.

NRG and Foundation Preparation Pallas-reactor formed a "personal union" in 2020, when they agreed to share the same executive board and supervisory board. The move was aimed at helping with the development of medical isotopes at the Petten site and the realisation of the new Pallas reactor.

"I am convinced that cooperation is a key element in realising such an ambitious project, said NRG-Pallas CEO Bertholt Leeftink. "Tractebel has an excellent track record in the field of nuclear engineering. Together, with our competences in nuclear consultancy and our experience as a project management organisation, Tractebel and NRG-Pallas form a complete set of capabilities. From the initial feasibility study towards contract management and operational readiness Tractebel and NRG-Pallas possess a full capacity to facilitate the ambitious plan of the Dutch government."

"Joining forces with major Dutch nuclear players will give our company the opportunity to contribute further to nuclear new-build initiatives in the country," said Denis Dumont, Chief Officer Global Nuclear, Tractebel. "We are convinced that summoning our multidisciplinary expertise with NRG-Pallas' skills and extensive local market knowledge will be key to successfully delivering new nuclear projects in the Netherlands."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News