Engie forecasts Belgian plant availability for 2019-2021

01 March 2019

The availability of Engie's Belgian nuclear power plants will rise to 78% this year, from 52% last year, according to its 2018 financial statement released yesterday. That percentage is expected to increase to 79% in 2020 and 93% in 2021, it added.

Doel (Image: Electrabel)

This includes new outages at Doel units 1 and 2 and Tihange unit 1, it said, adding that these units will not be available next winter.

Through its subsidiary Electrabel, the French utility operates seven nuclear reactors in Belgium at the Doel and Tihange sites with a combined installed capacity of 5.9 GWe. Unplanned outages led to a EUR200 million (USD228 million) loss in full-year earnings at its Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg unit, Engie said.

"The Nuclear business reported a very significant decrease due to unscheduled outages leading to a very low availability rate of 52% in 2018 and due to a decrease in captured prices," according to a company statement to accompany the financial report.

In 2018, Engie's revenue rose 1.7% to EUR60.6 billion and core earnings increased by 0.4% to EUR9.2bn, but current operating income fell by 0.9% to EUR5.1bn and net profit decreased to EUR1bn from EUR1.3bn, partly due to the extended outages of its Belgian nuclear power plants.

Merchant business excluding nuclear delivered 76% growth in reported EBITDA and 77% organically, driven mainly by a good performance from Global Energy Management and thermal power generation in Europe, it said.

The utility continued to develop its nuclear maintenance business last year with the acquisition by its subsidiary Endel of SUEZ's specialised subsidiary, ex-SRA SAVAC.

In January, Belgium's regulatory body, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, approved the restart of unit 2 of the Doel plant following repairs to a corroded pipeline in a safety cooling water circuit. Repairs to the same pipeline in Doel 1 continue.

A leak in the pipeline in unit 1 was detected in April 2018 and similar degradation was subsequently found at unit 2. However, FANC said the degradation at Doel 2 was "less advanced" than at unit 1. The regulator said the cause of the issue must be known before the units would be allowed to restart. Analyses have shown the degradation of the pipes was caused by material fatigue.

In September, Electrabel announced that scheduled outages at Tihange 2 and 3 had been further extended while concrete degradation issues in adjacent non-nuclear buildings are addressed. Tihange 2 is now expected to restart on 1 June 2019, and not on 31 October 2018 as previously planned. Tihange 3 had been expected to restart on 2 March 2019 instead of 30 September, but was restarted in early January.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News