Two oldest Doel units cleared for restart

23 December 2015

The Belgian nuclear regulator has approved the restart of units 1 and 2 of the Doel plant. The units - which were both taken offline earlier this year in accordance with the country's nuclear phase-out legislation - were required to meet new safety requirements in order to continue operating until 2025.

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

Belgium's Council of Ministers announced in July 2012 that Doel 1 and 2 - 433 MWe pressurized water reactors 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 - the country's oldest nuclear power reactors - could continue operating for a further 10 years to 2025. In late June, the federal parliament amended the law to allow the units to operate until then. This extension was conditional on operator Electrabel complying with new technical safety requirements set by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC).

In order to meet these requirements, Electrabel submitted in April an integrated action plan to FANC consisting two sets of actions: a list of priority actions to be completed before the units resumed operation and a series of measures to be taken within 3-5 years of the reactors being restarted. This action plan was approved by the regulator in early October.

FANC announced yesterday that, together with its technical subsidiary Bel V, it had now verified that Electrabel has completed the priority actions at the two Doel units and that the preconditions for their long-term operation have been met.

According to the FANC statement, Doel 1 and 2 will be reconnected to the electricity grid in the coming days and brought to full power.

At the end of November, Electrabel's parent Engie agreed to pay an annual fee of €20 million ($21 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.

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