Belgian reactor shutdown imminent

12 February 2015

Unit 1 of the Doel nuclear power plant in Belgium will be permanently disconnected from the grid on 15 February, operator Electrabel has stated. Despite government approval for extending the life of the 40-year-old unit, the regulator has not yet given its permission.

Doel plant 460 (Electrabel)
The Doel plant (Image: Electrabel)

GDF Suez subsidiary Electrabel announced yesterday that the operation to shut down the 433 MWe pressurized water reactor will begin on 14 February, with the unit scheduled to cease operating on the evening of the following day. The 121 fuel assemblies in its core will then be removed and transferred to storage pools.

Belgium's Council of Ministers announced in July 2012 that Doel 1 and 2 - which have been in operation since the mid-1970s - were to close in February and December 2015, respectively, after 40 years of operation. This was written into law in December 2013.

However, in mid-December 2014 the Council of Ministers from the new ruling coalition government agreed that the two units could continue operating for a further ten years to 2025.

At that time, energy minister Marie-Christine Marghem said that it was an "unconditional prerequisite" that the Belgian nuclear regulator - the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) - also approves the licence extension for the two reactors. She noted that Belgium's planned nuclear phase-out by the end of 2025 remains in place.

Electrabel said that the closure of Doel 1 "is in accordance with the law of 18 December 2013 which specifies its closure after 40 years of operation".

During its operating life, Doel 1 has generated some 127 TWh of electricity, equivalent to "an annual consumption of 36 million households", Electrabel said. The unit's average availability factor over the 40 years has been around 89%.

The company noted, however, that it continues its negotiations with the energy ministry on the lifetime extensions for Doel units 1 and 2.

"Electrabel participates constructively in these discussions," it said, "while recalling the need to define a clear legal and economic framework to consider investing locally €600 to €700 million ($683 to $797 million) needed for the extension of the activity."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News