Belgian regulator approves Doel life extensions

02 October 2015

Two Belgian reactors will be able to operate until 2025 after the country's Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) ruled that the units could safely operate beyond their original 40-year design life.

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

FANC has given its approval to an action plan submitted by operator Electrabel in April, which outlines the actions to be taken over the next decade to ensure the continued safe operation of the two 433 MWe pressurized water reactors. The plan incorporates elements related to modernization and management of aging facilities, as well as setting out a timetable and prioritizing various actions. It received preliminary regulatory approval in July.

Any deviation from the action plan and schedule must be approved by the FANC, and all priority actions must be completed before the reactors can start long-term operation. Electrabel must also submit the summary report from its fourth decennial safety review before the start of the long-term operation.

A law limiting the operating lives of Belgium's nuclear reactors to 40 years was passed by the country's government in 2003, but in July 2015 an amendment was passed to enable Doel 1 and 2 to operate for a further 10 years provided regulatory approval was granted. This means that Doel 1 would close on 15 February 2025, and Doel 2 on 1 December 2025.

Doel 1 has been off line since its current operating licence expired on 15 February 2015, when it reached its 40th anniversary. The plant will be able to resume long-term operation when the priority actions outlined in the action plan have been completed, FANC said. These actions include an ultrasound inspection of the reactor vessel. Vessel inspections and priority actions will be carried out at Doel 2 during an outage this autumn, the regulator said.

Electrabel said in a statement dated 1 October that it is reviewing its planning regarding the operation of Doel 1 in the light of FANC's announcement, and said the unit may be "available" from 15 December 2015. "Electrabel notes that the law governing the economic conditions for the 10-year lifetime extension of the Doel 1 and Doel 2 reactors has yet to be discussed and adopted by parliament. The owner and Belgium's federal government will also have to conclude an agreement on these conditions," the company said. An agreement in principle reached in July would see Electrabel face an annual fee of €20 million ($22 million) between 2016 and 2025 for the continued operation of the units.

Of Belgium's seven nuclear units, three - Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 - have now secured 10-year life extensions. Tihange 2 will reach the end of its 40-year lifetime in 2022 with Doel 3 following in 2023 and Doel 4 and Tihange 4 in 2025.

Doel 3 and Tihange 2 have been off line since 2014 while issues related to manufacturing flaws in their pressure vessels are addressed.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News