Belgium maintains nuclear phase-out policy

04 April 2018

The Belgian government has approved a new "energy pact" that maintains the previous policy to phase out nuclear energy in the country by 2025. A draft bill on the new federal energy strategy will be submitted to the cabinet by the end of May.

The energy pact was agreed last December by Belgium's four energy ministers, at federal, Brussels, Walloon and Flemish level. The new strategy maintains the country's plan to shut down its seven operating nuclear reactors by 2025. It also calls for investments in gas and renewables, particularly off-shore wind turbines, to replace the capacity that will be lost through the nuclear phase-out.

The Council of Ministers approved the new energy strategy on 30 March.

The government noted that while the energy and climate objectives for the period 2021-2030 had already been set at the European level, the national energy and climate plan to 2030 has yet to be agreed between the different federal entities. However, the new energy strategy confirms that Belgium will adopt its national energy strategy for 2030 by next year.

The latest federal energy strategy, the government said, aims to ensure security of supply; respect the Paris climate change agreement; maintain affordable energy for businesses and families; and maintain the highest level of safety at energy facilities.

Belgium's seven operating nuclear reactors - four at Doel and three at Tihange - produce about half of the country's electricity.

"To achieve the very ambitious climate goals, we need all the solutions existing today: nuclear energy, like renewables, produces very few CO2 emissions," Belgian trade body Forum Nucléaire said yesterday. "As a carbon-free energy source, nuclear enables Belgium to ensure its security of electricity supply, maintain a stable price for energy and move towards its climate objectives. Nuclear energy will enable the energy transition."

A study by PwC Enterprise Advisory, commissioned by Forum Nucléaire and published in October 2016, concluded that even with "massive" development of renewable energy sources, a nuclear phase-out would lead to a "considerable deterioration" in Belgium's carbon footprint by 2050, with the country needing to resort to imports and "more expensive power plants". The study also found that without nuclear capacity, Belgian electricity generation would not be enough to meet the country's demand.

In a May 2016 report, the International Energy Agency also noted that the country's policy to phase out the use of nuclear energy by 2025 "does not help Belgium meet any of its energy policy goals".

According to the IEA, "A rapid phase-out ... would have a significant impact on energy supply, on the level of electricity prices and on the country's ability to meet its long-term GHG emission targets." It suggested, "The government should reconsider the current phase-out policy and opt for a more gradual approach. A better option would be to allow nuclear power plants to run as long as the regulator considers them safe. The IEA recommends the government to simply avoid a phase-out as it is currently envisaged."

In November 2017, three major Belgian business associations – Essenscia, Agoria and Febeliec – said that shutting all nuclear plants by 2025 was not an affordable idea, and that the plan would boost carbon dioxide emissions and damage Belgian businesses.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News