Belgian units to remain offline until November

13 May 2015

Electrabel announced today that it now expects its Doel 3 and Tihange 2 nuclear reactors to remain offline until 1 November as the process to potentially restart the units continues. The utility had previously expected the units to restart on 1 July.

Doel plant 460 (Electrabel)
The outage at unit 3 of the Doel plant, as well as Tihange 2, has been extended by a further four months (Image: Electrabel)

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. The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) allowed Electrabel to restart the units in May 2013, requesting that further tests be conducted to evaluate the effect over time of these flakes.

In March 2014, 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.

In January, Electrabel said the units, which total 2014 MWe in generating capacity, would remain out of action until 1 July.

However, it has now said the units will remain offline until 1 November. Electrabel said, "This update follows the details communicated by FANC in the context of the review process."

An international expert panel convened by FANC and its technical subsidiary Bel V met for three days in late April to review and discuss the results of the test campaigns conducted by Electrabel over the past year. The panel is soon expected to issue an opinion on the calculation method that Electrabel must use in the safety case it will submit to FANC for restarting Doel 3 and Tihange 2.

FANC and its technical subsidiary Bel V will review the safety case in consultation with inspection services company AIB-Vinçotte, the expert review panel and an external research team. It expects this process will take another few months.

Electrabel said, "Based on these elements, Electrabel considers that the period of unavailability has to be reviewed."

The utility said, "In order to explain the exact scope of the safety case, Electrabel will communicate in all transparency on the tests that have been carried out, once the file has been submitted to the authorities."

Parent company Engie - the recently renamed GDF Suez - said today the extended outage of the two units would cost the group some €40 million ($45 million) per month.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News