Agreement on extending lives of Doel units

30 July 2015

An agreement in principle has been reached between Electrabel and the Belgian government on the conditions for a ten-year life extension for units 1 and 2 of the Doel nuclear power plant. The tax to be paid by the country's nuclear operators has also been revised.

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

Belgian energy, environment and sustainable development minister Marie-Christine Marghem announced yesterday that negotiations had been completed on a fee for the continued operation of the two reactors and on the revision of the "nuclear contribution".

Under the agreement, Electrabel must pay an annual fee of €20 million ($22 million) between 2016 and 2025 for the continued operation of Doel 1 and 2. The fee is to be paid into the country's energy transition fund which was created by the law of 28 June.

For the operation of the country's other power reactors - Doel units 3 and 4 and Tihange units 2 and 3 - the plant operators must pay a lump sum of €200 million ($219 million) in 2015 and €130 million ($142 million) in 2016. This was a compromise to fees of €100 million ($109 million) in 2015 and €20 million ($22 million) in 2016 set by a December 2006 law.

For subsequent years, starting in 2017, the Belgian government will revise the contribution according to a formula that takes into account the evolution of the costs, production volumes and the price of electricity. The margin applied will be 40%.

The ministry said the nuclear contribution had been set based on the calculation by the Commission for the Regulation of Electricity and Gas. This put the profit from all the activities of Belgium's nuclear operators - Electrabel, EDF Luminus and EDF Belgium - at some €434 million ($474 million) in 2014. In addition, the new contribution takes into account the production and the structural downward trend in wholesale electricity prices.

A bill reflecting the agreement will be presented to parliament later this year. Following legislative work, a convention can be developed that incorporates the principles into law.

Electrabel's parent company, Engie, said the new agreement "establishes a stable legal and economic framework for the future."

In a statement, the ministry said, "The federal government has committed itself in accordance with the coalition agreement to make every effort to ensure Belgium's electricity supply. To make this possible, inter alia, a legal and financial framework was necessary for the lifetime extension of nuclear power plants."

Belgium's Council of Ministers announced in July 2012 that Doel 1 and 2 - 433 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWRs) that have been in operation since the mid-1970s - were to close in February and December 2015, respectively, after 40 years of operation. However, last December the Council of Ministers from the new ruling coalition agreed that the two units could continue operating for a further ten years to 2025.

A licence extension for Doel 1 and 2 still awaits approval from the Belgian nuclear regulator, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control.

Under current Belgian law, nuclear power is to be phased out by 2025. Of the other units now in operation, Doel 3 and Tihange 2 look set to close when they reach the end of their 40-year lives in 2022 and 2023, with Doel 4 and Tihange 3 along with the life-extended Tihange 1 following suit in 2025.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News