Stiff opposition to nuclear charge

15 October 2008

Electrabel has reacted strongly against a plan from the Belgian government to force a one-off payment of €250 million ($338 million) from nuclear power generators.


The company's parent group, GdF-Suez has told the Belgian government that it "emphatically protests" a draft of new legislation which requires nuclear operators - and nuclear operators only - to make a "contribution" of €250 million to government coffers for the 2008 financial year. 
Electrabel's Tihange nuclear power plant
The company said that should the law be approved by parliament, it would submit a claim for annulment with the Constitutional Court.


A company statement said it "considers the very principle behind such a contribution to be contestable," explaining that it would be discriminatory, since this measure would affect only the two Belgian generators of nuclear energy "without the difference in treatment being justified by any objective connection between the measure and the considerations of general interest concerning the generation of nuclear energy."


Electrabel is the only owner of nuclear power plants in Belgium, but was forced by the government to allow other companies to take 30% of its overall power generation capacity. This resulted in another company, SPE, taking some nuclear capacity, and therefore falling under the Belgian government's new demand.


GdF-Suez also said the sum is disproportionate and "conflicts with the general principle of lawful expectations" as it is inconsistent with a previous agreement made with government, known at 'Pax Electrica II'.


Although nuclear power provides more than half of Belgian electricity, the country's laws prohibit the building of new nuclear power plants, and limit the working lives of its seven existing ones to 40 years. Around the world, and notably the USA, reactors similar to those in Belgium are expected to operate safely for up to 60 years.