Belgian support for keeping reactors running beyond 2025 rises

25 October 2019

Support by the Belgian public for keeping the country's nuclear power plants in operation beyond 2025 has risen to 46% of those surveyed, up from 30% recorded in a 2017 poll. The percentage of respondents who believe the share of nuclear power in Belgium's electricity mix should be reduced has fallen to 59% from 75% in 2017. Forum Nucléaire says the increase in support shown by the 18-month barometer survey is "remarkable".

(Image: Forum Nucléaire)

The survey, which was carried out by Kantar TNS, is the seventh in a series begun by Forum Nucléaire in 2010 to track sentiment of the Belgian population towards energy issues in general and nuclear energy in particular. The questionnaire uses both recurring questions, to observe long-term trends, and new questions in response to current events. The poll, conducted between 15 July and 6 September, had 756 respondents, who were aged over 16 and selected at random..

It found "more and more" Belgians are in favour of keeping nuclear energy, Forum Nucléaire said, with 83% of respondants agreeing the country should maintain its nuclear energy production, up from 80% in 2017. Although 37% want to maintain nuclear power plants until 2025, 46% of those interviewed believe that the country's nuclear power plants should remain open after 2025. This, says Forum Nucléaire, is a "remarkable" increase compared to the previous poll in 2017, when only 30% thought that nuclear power plants should remain open after 2025.

The survey also found increasing support for new nuclear power plants in Belgium, with the percentage of respondents feeling that the share of nuclear in Belgium's electricity mix should be reduced down from 75% in 2017 to 59% today. Some 63% said new nuclear power plants could be built to replace Belgium's existing fleet in the future.
Seven nuclear reactors - four at Doel and three at Tihange - generate around half of Belgium's electricity, but government policy currently envisages phasing out nuclear by 2025. This was reaffirmed by the Belgian government in March 2018. A question on the government's plans to replace nuclear capacity with gas, which was asked for the first time in this year's survey, found 12% agreed, while 77% did not agree and 11% had no opinion.

These findings show the growing awareness in the Belgian population that a sudden nuclear exit in 2025 would make CO2 reduction targets "almost impossible" for the country, Forum Nucléaire said.

Climate concerns were found to play an important role in people's attitudes, Forum Nucléaire said, reflecting increased media and political attention to this topic. Some 51% of Belgians said they believe nuclear power does not emit CO2 and that it thus contributes to the fight against climate change. Some 28% agree with the view that a nuclear shutdown in Belgium in 2025 would lead to an increase in CO2 emissions, and 70% said they would agree to keep their nuclear power plants in operation for longer in order to reduce CO2 emissions.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News