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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #870 - 19 December 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Taiwan's goal to become nuclear free remains unchanged: President Tsai

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said her administration's goal of making Taiwan a nuclear-free homeland remains unchanged, despite the November 24 referendum which saw 59% of voters calling on the government to abandon the 2025 deadline for the closure of all power reactors.1

President Tsai said the goal of phasing out nuclear power in Taiwan is part of the Basic Environment Act. "Therefore, that goal remains unchanged," she said.1

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislated the 2025 nuclear-free deadline in 2016 but has now repealed the relevant passage in the Electricity Act.2

Ten referendum question were put to voters on November 24. All 10 proposals were supported by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party and opposed by the government. Voters supported all 10 propositions, and also dealt the DPP serious losses in local government elections on the same day. Other referendum propositions ‒ all of them successful ‒ included stipulating that thermal power plants should cut their output by at least 1% per year on average; that Taiwan not build any new coal-fired plants; and that restrictions should be maintained on the importation of foods from areas of Japan affected by the 2011 Fukushima disaster (supported by 77% of voters).3

Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said the Executive Yuan respects the referendum result regarding the 2025 deadline and will work with relevant ministries to re-evaluate the country's energy policies.4 Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin said the policy review will be complete in two months.5

The anti-nuclear group National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform said that not all those who voted in favor of stopping the nuclear phase-out are unconditional supporters of nuclear power, but rather some lack confidence in Taiwan's energy transformation.6

Nuclear power generated 9.3% of Taiwan's electricity in 2017.7 Two aging reactors were permanently shut down this year (Chinsan-1 reached its 40-year limit in October and Chinsan-2 was nearing its 40-year limit). The 40-year operating licenses for Taiwan's remaining four reactors will expire in 2021, 2023, 2024 and 2025. That fate of all six reactors will be contested in the coming period, as will the partially-completed Lungmen nuclear plant. Construction of the two Lungmen reactors was suspended in 2014 and 2015, with 55% public support for the suspension.8

1. Lu Hsin-hui and Evelyn Kao, 29 Nov 2018, 'Taiwan's goal to become nuclear free remains unchanged: President Tsai',

2. Cat Thomas, 26 Nov 2018, 'Govt Sidesteps Energy Referendums as Pro-Nuclear Group Mulls Further Action',

3. Jens Kastner, 7 Dec 2018, 'Taiwan's Voters Pull Plug on Energy Sources',

4. Ku Chuan and Ko Lin, 27 Nov 2018, 'Taiwan scraps nuclear-free deadline in wake of referendum',

5. 3 Dec 2018, 'Taipower withholds returning fuel rods pending new energy policy',

6. 25 Nov 2018, 'Anti-nuclear group undeterred by passing of pro-nuclear referendum',



Langer Heinrich 'dodged' N$219 million tax

The Namibian reported on December 12:1

"The Namibian government lost N$219 million [US$15.4 million] in taxes from the sale of shares in one of the world's largest uranium mines, Langer Heinrich, because the country's tax avoidance law is not up to scratch.

"An investigation by The Namibian and UK-based journalism organisation Finance Uncovered revealed that the Australian multi-national mining corporation, Paladin Energy, pocketed N$665 million [US$46.7 million] after selling shares in the Langer Heinrich mine through a Mauritius-based offshore company.

"Paladin argues that using an offshore holding company means they are not liable to pay tax in Namibia. Tax on the proceeds of the sale would have amounted to N$219 million. 

"When presented with details of the joint investigation, the Namibian tax office said they were unaware of the Langer Heinrich deal, but in their view, taxes should have been paid on the proceeds. Tax bosses admitted that problems with legislation mean they are unable to enforce the law on offshore transactions like that of Langer Heinrich.

"Conducting transactions through Mauritius as a way to avoid paying taxes on the profits when assets are sold, is a well-known tax avoidance loophole used by many companies around the world. ... According to Tax Justice Network Africa executive director Alvin Mosioma, companies like Paladin have been involved in "aggressive tax planning schemes" that leave most countries unable to collect enough revenue, primarily through Mauritius which has countless tax treaties with most countries."

Similar accusations have been made about Paladin's Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi (both Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera are in care-and-maintenance). United Nations' Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter noted in a 2013 report that "revenue losses from special incentives given to Australian mining company Paladin Energy, which manages the Kayelekera uranium mine, are estimated to amount to at least US$205 million (MWK 67 billion) and could be up to US$281 million (MWK 92 billion) over the 13-year lifespan of the mine."2

Paladin's environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of numerous critical reports.3

And Paladin isn't the only Australian mining company embroiled in controversy in Africa. A 2015 report by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists found that that since 2004, more than 380 people have died in mining accidents or in off-site skirmishes connected to Australian mining companies in Africa.5 The report further stated: "Multiple Australian mining companies are accused of negligence, unfair dismissal, violence and environmental law-breaking across Africa, according to legal filings and community petitions gathered from South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana."

1. George Turner, Lazarus Amukeshe and Shinovene Immanuel, 12 Dec 2018, 'Langer Heinrich dodged N$219 million tax',$219-million-tax

2. 22 July 2013, 'End of mission statement by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food',

3. Nuclear Monitor #847, 21 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy's social and environmental record in Africa',



Belgium: call to close Tihange-1 reactor

Greens member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms has called for the decommissioning of Belgium's oldest nuclear reactor, Tihange 1, as it no longer meets international safety standards.

Harms' demand coincides with the publication of a damning new study on the risks of the continued operation of Tihange 1. The author of the study is Prof. Manfred Mertins, an expert in nuclear engineering and former member of the German Nuclear Safety Authority. He presented the findings at a news briefing in the European Parliament. The academic came to the conclusion that the continued operation of Tihange 1 due to "outdated reactor design, inadequate safety management and the accumulation of frequent unplanned events represents a potential danger for the site and its surroundings." It was particularly critical "that the results of international tests and current safety standards are not adequately taken into account."

Prof. Mertins said in the exhaustive study, which was commissioned by the Greens/EFA group, that: "It should be noted that the Tihange 1 nuclear power plant does not meet the requirements of reliable hazard and accident protection. The Tihange 1 nuclear plant provides only limited basic protection. Its design does not consistently cover the state-of-the-art requirements for protection against overarching external effects. This applies in particular to protection against airplane crashes, which, given the proximity to the airport at Bierset-Liège, is a highly safety-relevant factor. The crash of an airplane ‒ larger than a sporting aircraft ‒ would have a catastrophic impact on the site and its surrounding area."

Harms, who is nuclear energy spokesperson for the Greens/EFA group, said: "The frequent problems in recent years is an indication of the deficiencies and risks arising from the ageing of the [Tihange 1] plant. The Belgian authorities' handling of the problems of the Belgian reactor fleet, which is characterised by covering up and downplaying the risks, further increases the loss of confidence. The definitive closure of the oldest Belgian reactor could be a much-needed sign that the well-known problems are taken seriously. The authorities in neighbouring countries must also take action. The 43-year-old nuclear reactor Tihange 1 is threatening not only the safety of Belgian citizens but also of the citizens in neighbouring countries."

Abridged with light editing from: Martin Banks, 11 Dec 2018, 'Rebecca Harms: Decommission 'hopelessly outdated' Belgian nuclear reactor',

Belgian government confirms nuclear phase-out

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Eloi Glorieux ‒ Senior Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Belgium

The Belgian federal and regional governments finally reached an agreement on an Energy Pact, which is presented as the new federal energy strategy. In December 2017, the energy minister of the federal government and the energy ministers of the three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels Capital Region) reached a draft agreement ‒ but the largest federal majority party, the Flemish-nationalist N-VA, raised objections over the economic aspects. They preconceived that the closure between 2022 and 2025 of the seven PWRs of Doel and Tihange, representing a production capacity of about 5,900 MW, would have severe economic consequences, specifically for energy intensive industries.

Over the past decades, small and middle-sized enterprises and families in Belgium paid one of the highest electricity bills of OECD countries. This made it possible for nuclear operator Electrabel to amortize its reactors within a time period of 20 years and to supply baseload power at a dumping price to the big consumers. New studies, ordered by the federal energy minister, showed that the economic impact of the nuclear phase-out would not be insurmountable.

N-VA finally gave up its resistance and on 30 March 2018 the government presented its new federal energy strategy. This strategy serves five objectives: to secure the power supply, to respect the Paris agreements on climate change, to keep the electricity bill for companies and families competitive and to sustain a high as possible safety level for the power production plants. A monitoring committee will be established to monitor the evolution of these five objectives. Before 31 December 2018, the government will present a 'National Energy and Climate Plan 2030' to the European Commission. Meanwhile, the execution of the new federal energy strategy began, with the assignment of additional zones for offshore wind parks in the North Sea. In order to enable the closure of the seven nuclear reactors between 2022 and 2025, additional gas production capacity will also be enabled and interconnections with neighboring countries will be strengthened.

Does this mean that the nuclear phase-out in Belgium is set in stone once and for all? No, as illustrated by the decisions in 2014 and 2015 to extend the lifetime of Tihange 1 and Doel 1&2, although their decommissioning was imposed by the nuclear phase-out law. The big difference, however, is that this time all political parties – majority and opposition – with the exception of one small extreme right-wing party, have agreed to the new federal energy strategy.

The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating. In this respect the federal elections of 2019 will be decisive. If the governmental agreement of that new coalition confirms the nuclear phase-out unequivocally, then it will be very difficult to reverse the decision.

Meanwhile, grassroots groups from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany ‒ along with environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and WISE ‒ are requesting the immediate shut-down of Doel 3 and Tihange 2, which have thousands of cracks in their reactor pressure vessel. Recently, the city council of Liège, 25 km from Tihange, voted in favor of a resolution for the early closure of the cracked Tihange 2 reactor. There are also several court cases hanging on the decision to extend the lifetime of Tihange 1 and Doel 1&2 without having organized an Environmental Impact Assessment and cross-border public consultation processes. The outcomes of these court cases may well lead to an earlier closure of the oldest reactors than foreseen in the new federal energy strategy.

50,000 join 'human chain' protest in Europe!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Fifty thousand people joined hands in a 90-kilometre human chain through Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium on June 25 to demand the closure of two Belgian nuclear power stations ‒ Tihange 2 and Doel 3 ‒ which both have thousands of cracks in the reactor vessels.

The organisers of the action, WISE (Netherlands), AAA (Germany) and 11Maartbeweging and Fin du Nucleaire (Belgium) speak of a great success and "by far the largest anti-nuclear action in Europe since the meltdown disaster in Fukushima, Japan."

The chain reached from Aachen in Germany via Maastricht in the Netherlands to Tihange. Nuclear opponents from France and Luxembourg also joined, giving "a clear sign that not only the scandal-reactors in Tihange and Doel, but also the reactors in France, the Netherlands and in Germany must be shut down."

The German federal government as well as the newly-elected North-Rhine Westphalian Provincial government, and the Lower Saxony Provincial government – who all want the Belgian nuclear power stations to be closed ‒ must 'walk the talk' and stop the license for the production and export of nuclear fuel for the Belgian reactors.

Protests are to continue. Another supraregional and international demo is planned in Lingen, Germany on September 9 against fuel manufacture and exportation, the uranium enrichment in Gronau and ongoing operation of nuclear power stations in Lingen, Grohnde, Belgium, Netherlands, France and elsewhere.

For WISE, the biggest success of the human chain was the fact that we managed to get people in the southern region of the Netherlands – close to the Tihange reactor ‒ organised and empowered. Hundreds of people joined local groups who took up mobilisation but who are now also willing to continue their work. In total, more than 10,000 Dutch people took part in the human chain – double the amount we expected. WISE director Peer de Rijk said: "This is so encouraging. We will continue to work with the people and groups and build a new movement in the region."

Just two days before the human chain took place, protesters were invited by the management of the Tihange nuclear power stations for a meeting – to take place at the same time as the human chain action. We responded by inviting them to come to the action and have a public debate. Thousands of activists were ready to listen to their view on the issue of the cracks in the reactor vessels. Of course, they did not show up. We will have this meeting soon, with one condition ‒ it has to be a public meeting.

More information (reports, photos, videos):


Nuclear Europe roundup

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp

Czech Republic – Dukovany and Temelín

German environmentalists have started a petition to demand their government to take action on faulty welding work in the first reactor of the Temelín nuclear power station in the south of the Czech Republic. Over 75,000 signatures will be handed over before summer to environment minister Hendricks. More information is posted at

During the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Prague on 23 May, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka declared that he saw no other way for the country's energy mix other than nuclear power. He criticised attempts to diminish its role, hinting at criticism from neighbouring Austria and Germany about Czech plans to expand its nuclear fleet with new reactors in Dukovany and Temelín. He expected the environmental impact assessment for new capacity in Dukovany to be finalised in 2018.

Slovakia – Mochovce 3,4 and New Bohunice

The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico announced during the same ENEF meeting that Slovakia will finalise the Mochovce 3,4 project no matter what. According to Euractiv on 26 May, he said that Slovakia will always strive for the further development of nuclear energy: "Our government will never abandon this policy and will always fight for the right to choose the way for the production of energy in the future." The Slovak Industry Minister Peter Žiga said at the same event that although the plan for new reactors at the Jaslovské Bohunice site is technically prepared, current economic conditions are not favourable: "We are waiting for better times, when the prices of electricity at the wholesale market will be a bit higher."

In the run-up to this year's Chernobyl anniversary, Global2000, the Austrian member of Friends of the Earth, found elevated tritium levels near the Mochovce nuclear power station in Slovakia. In the Malé Kozmálovce reservoir they found 1347 Bq/l, around 13 times higher than the drinking water limit.

Hungary – Paks II

According to sources, the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) 7th Review Conference discussed the recent law changes in Hungary that could infringe on the independence of the nuclear regulator HAEA. Also the European Commission continued communication with Hungary on the issue. A final result of its inquiry is expected in the coming months.

The Hungarian government appointed former Paks director and mayor of the city of Paks János Süli as a special minister without portfolio for the Paks II project. Rosatom opened a tender procedure for the turbine building and related accessories.

EnergiaKlub and Greenpeace filed a court appeal on 24 May against the approval of the environmental license for Paks II.

Finland – Olkiluoto 3, Hanhikivi

The owner of the Olkiluoto 3 project, TVO, announced it will drop its compensation claims in the international arbitration court against Areva. This in an attempt to ensure that the Olkiluoto 3 reactor will go into a test phase in the coming year.

The town of Helsinki decided to try to get out of Fennovoima, the company behind the Hanhikivi project. This will not be easy, though, because it is only is a minority shareholder in Vantaan Energia, the company over which it owns shares in Fennovoima.

Nuclear regulator STUK announced recently that it will not be able to process the Fennovoima documentation before the end of 2018. Finland is facing parliamentary elections in April 2018.

Russia – the floating reactors of the "Akademik Lomonosov"

Greenpeace Russia made an assessment of the nuclear regulatory oversight over the construction of a floating nuclear power station in the centre of St. Petersburg, 3.5 km from the Hermitage. It came to the conclusion that there is only one annual pre-announced inspection visit by the Russian nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor. It calls for the same regulatory oversight of the entire project, including construction and transport, as other Russian nuclear power stations. A proposal along those lines from the Yablokov fraction in the town's parliament environmental committee was approved on 1 June and has to be confirmed later this month in a plenary session.

Spain – Santa Maria de Garoña, Almarez

During a seminar in the European Parliament, Spanish and Portuguese Parliament members asked that attention be given to the upcoming life-time extension of the Almarez nuclear power plant in Spain, as well as for the plans to restart Santa Maria de Garoña. They demanded public participation before the final decisions for these life-time extensions.

The restart of Santa Maria de Garoña by regulator CNS been conditional on upgrade investments. While 50% owner Iberdrola already said it wanted to refrain from re-opening the reactor, Endesa, the owner of the other 50%, prefers to wait for the decision of the Ministry of Energy.

Initially, the submission period for a request for life-time extension of the Almarez nuclear reactor would run out on 7 June. However, the Ministry of Energy with the support of CNS changed the procedure so that it now still has two years to do so.

Belgium – Tihange and Doel

Preparations for a human chain from Tihange (Belgium), over Maastricht (Netherlands) to Aachen (Germany) on 25 June over 90 km are in full swing. The event is receiving support from German and Dutch municipalities most affected by the power station, as well as from a broad range of people from culture and media, including the annual Dutch PinkPop rock festival. More information:

Belarus – Astravets

During the European Nuclear Energy Forum, 22 May in Prague, Lithuanian vice-minister for the environment Martynas Norbutas heavily criticised the Astravets project, 20 km from the border with Lithuania. He explained among others that the site choice happened without being informed by an environmental impact assessment, and based on population densities in Belarus but excluding Lithuania.

The Lithuanian – Belarussian tensions are expected to influence the Meeting of Parties of the Espoo Convention that takes place June 13‒16 in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

Jan Haverkamp is expert consultant on nuclear energy and energy policy for WISE, Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, Greenpeace Switzerland and vice-chair of Nuclear Transparency Watch.

Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #844 - 25 May 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Close Tihange – 60,000 people to take to the streets

On June 25, around 60,000 people from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium will literally join hands when they form a human chain of 90 km from the German city of Aachen, via Dutch Maastricht to Belgium Liege and Tihange. It has been decades since the Belgian antinuclear movement has called for such a big action.

The three old nuclear power reactors in Tihange are much debated, not only in Belgium itself but – even more – in neighboring Germany. The reactors are located about 60 km from the border of both Germany and the Netherlands. All three reactors have been plagued in the past years with incidents, accidents and unsolved problems.

On 18 November 2016, the Belgian newspaper La Libre reported that the CEO of the Belgian nuclear regulator FANC, Jan Bens, expressed his anger to the owner of the nuclear power stations, Electrabel. In two letters to the government and Electrabel itself, he says "Electrabel didn't show any initiative in order to improve the level of safety." Bens described in the published letters an "alarming probability of a nuclear meltdown", especially in Tihange-2. He warned of the possibility of a new disaster "as in Fukushima and Tsjernobyl".

In the pressure vessels of not only Tihange-2 but also Doel-3 (in the west of Belgium), thousands of cracks have been discovered. During ultrasonic testings in 2012/13, approximately 13,000 cracks were found, a few millimeters long at first. By now, some are documented with a length up to 17.2 centimeters. The decision of the Belgian government to postpone closure of the reactors has been widely criticized all over Europe, and the federal governments of Germany and Luxembourg have officially called on the Belgian government to permanently close the reactors.

After a year of intense lobbying work by WISE and other Dutch NGOs, the national parliament of the Netherlands on May 25 passed (with the smallest possible majority, 76 to 74) a resolution which calls on the Dutch government to join forces with Germany and Luxembourg in calling on Belgium to permanently close the reactors.

In the meantime, mobilization for the human chain on June 25 intensifies. Numerous local governments in the southern part of the Netherlands (Limburg) support the action and are encouraging their citizens to join. One of the biggest pop festivals of the Netherlands (Pinkpop, in early June) supports the action and will call all their visitors to join the human chain. Local groups are popping up and are organising buses. Well-known artists, politicians and scientists are saying that they will join.

The action is organised by groups in the Netherlands (WISE), Germany (Aktionsbündnis gegen Atomenergie Aachen) and Belgium (11Maar Beweging and Fin du Nucleaire) and is widely supported by dozens of other national and local NGOs. Join us if you can!

More information:

‒ Peer de Rijk ‒ WISE Director

Switzerland: referendum supports nuclear power phase-out

Voters in Switzerland supported a May 21 referendum on a package of energy policy measures including a ban on new nuclear power reactors. Thus Switzerland has opted for a "gradual nuclear phase out" in the words of the World Nuclear Association. There are no definitive dates for the closure of the existing five reactors ‒ they can remain in operation as long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate deems them safe ‒ but they will probably all be closed by the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Before the Fukushima disaster, plans were in train to build new reactors to replace Switzerland's aging fleet. However those plans were shelved in the aftermath of Fukushima.

In a November 2016 referendum, Swiss citizens narrowly rejected a Green Party initiative that called for a 45-year limit to be placed on the lifespan of power reactors, which would have resulted in the closure of all plants by 2029.

In the May 21 referendum, 58.2% of Swiss citizens voted in support of the revisions to the Energy Act. Only four of the country's 26 cantons voted 'no'.

In addition to the ban on new power reactors, no "basic changes" to existing nuclear power plants will be permitted. In 2003, Switzerland imposed a moratorium on the export of spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing until 2020 and the Energy Strategy 2050, approved by the May 21 referendum, extends this ban indefinitely.

To support the expansion of renewables, 480 million swiss francs (US$492 million) will be raised annually from electricity consumers to fund investment in wind, solar and hydro power. Power generation from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources is to increase at least four-fold by 2035 ‒ from 2,831 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to at least 11,400 GWh by 2035. Hydro currently accounts for 60% of Switzerland's power generation, with nuclear providing 35%.

An additional 450 million francs (US$461m) will also be set aside from an existing tax on fossil fuels to help reduce energy consumption in buildings by 43% by 2035 compared with 2000 levels.

"This is a historic day for the country," Green Party parliamentarian Adele Thorens Goumaz said. "Switzerland will finally enter the 21st century when it comes to energy."





Beznau I

365 MW



Beznau II

365 MW




373 MW




970 MW




1190 MW



Nuclear Europe roundup

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp ‒ WISE Netherlands campaigner on safety and lifetime extension issues for European reactors.

Hungary – Paks II

The Hungarian nuclear regulator issued the site approval for the Paks II nuclear power plant. The preliminary approval of the environmental permit has been sent to some foreign participants in the EIA procedure (e.g. the organisation Calla in the Czech Republic and Terra Mileniul III in Romania) but only in Hungarian. The responsible authority claims no translation is required under Hungarian law. A court case from Hungarian NGOs, among others Energia Klub and Greenpeace Hungary, against the approval of the environmental permit is pending.

The Hungarian government passed law changes in December 2016, including the possibility for the government, the de facto operator of the Paks II project, which is run from the Prime Minister's office, to divert per decree from licensing conditions for the construction of new nuclear capacity and nuclear waste management. The European Commission is currently investigating this under the allegation of breach of the independence of the nuclear regulator as defined under the Euratom Nuclear Safety Directive. Also, the 7th Review Conference of the Convention on Nuclear Safety at the IAEA in Vienna is discussing the matter.

Finland – Hanhikivi

The Finnish nuclear regulator STUK is currently scrutinising the construction documentation for the Hanhikivi nuclear project of the Finnish-Russian conglomerate Fennovoima. STUK criticised Fennovoima, constructor Rosatom and sub-contractors for having too little capacity to deliver the necessary documentation.

Russia – the floating reactors of the "Akademik Lomonosov"

Rosatom is preparing to load two 35 MW power reactors on board the non-propelled barge "Akademik Lomonosov", which is moored at the Baltic Shipyard in the centre of St. Petersburg, 3.5 km from the Hermitage and 2.5 km from the St. Isaac Cathedral.

Greenpeace Russia, the Yablokov Party and Greenpeace Nordic are urging for a transboundary environmental impact assessment to be made before loading, testing and transport of the barge to its final destination in Chukotka. The transport will lead the barge through the exclusive economic zones and/or territorial waters of most countries around the Baltic Sea.

Slovakia – Mochovce 3,4

The shareholders of Slovenské elektrarne ‒ the Slovak state, Italian utility ENEL and the Czech energy holding EPH ‒ have officially increased the budget for the construction of Mochovce 3,4 with €800 million during their Annual General Meeting in late March 2017. Mochovce 3,4 consists of two Rosatom designed VVER440/213 reactors of the second generation that are not equipped with a secondary containment. The total budget is now €5.4 billion or €5620/kWe capacity, which is comparable to the construction costs of the French designed EPR reactors in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France. It is unclear who has to finance these extra costs.

Spain – Santa Maria de Garoña

The Spanish government would like to have the EU's oldest nuclear reactor, the Fukushima type GE Mark 1 reactor at Santa Maria de Garoña, restarted. The reactor was shut down in 2015, when its operator Nuclenor (Endesa / ENEL and Iberdrola) did not see an economic future any longer after necessary upgrades. Political pressure on Nuclenor from the side of the Spanish conservative government has been mounting, however.

On the other side, resistance against a restart in the neighbouring Basque Country is growing. During a session of the Basque Parliament on 5 April 2017, legal steps, among others against the lack of public participation, environmental considerations and comparison with viable alternatives, were prepared with parliament-wide support.

Iberdrola has already made clear that it would rather not restart the aging reactor. Endesa and its owner ENEL have yet to react.

Belgium – Tihange and Doel

On 11 March, around 1,000 people demonstrated in Antwerp against the life-time extension of the Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 reactors, for closure of the crack-ridden Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors, and phase-out of the remaining two reactors Doel 4 and Tihange 3 in 2025.

The lack of public participation and environmental impact assessment for the life-time extension of Doel 1,2 and Tihange 1 is currently pending before the Council of State as well as civil court on complaints from Greenpeace. The city of Aachen (Germany) and the State of North Rhine – Westphalia (Germany) have started legal proceedings in Belgium against the operation of Doel 3 and Tihange 2.

On 25 June, a human chain from Tihange to Aachen is to follow the protests from March 11.

Belarus – Astravetz

The government of Lithuania has stepped up its attempts to prevent the construction of the Belarussian-Russian Astravetz nuclear power station just 40 km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Belarus has promised to submit the Astravetz project to a nuclear stress test under supervision of the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), in the framework of the European post-Fukushima nuclear stress tests. The watchdog group Nuclear Transparency Watch has asked the European Commission to also facilitate input from civil society in that exercise, as happened during the European stress tests and similar stress tests with European support in Taiwan.

Netherlands – Borssele

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee is receiving answers on its last question regarding the lack of proper public participation concerning environmental issues in the decisions leading to the 20-year life-time extension of the Borssele nuclear reactor in 2013. The Committee is expected to finalise its findings in April and submit them to the Meeting of Parties of the Aarhus Convention in September.

In the meantime, the owner of Borssele, EPZ, has sold its grid distribution and water businesses for €900 million. It now has to decide whether this one-off income will be used to operate Borssele with a loss until possibly improved electricity prices might turn a profit in the early 2020s, or to use it to close down the aging reactor.

Decommissioning costs are budgeted at €500 million, but the decommissioning fund currently faces a shortage of over €200 million.

The largest two parties coming out of the Dutch parliamentarian elections in March 2017, VVD and PVV, want to continue operation of Borssele. Potential government candidates D66 and GroenLinks want it closed. The other negotiating party, the christian-democrat CDA, did not mention Borssele in its election programme, whereas another potential government coalition candidate, the Christian Union (CU), would like to see closure.

Czech Republic – Dukovany and Temelín

The Dukovany nuclear power station is gradually receiving permission for 20 years' life-time extension. Austrian NGOs including among others Global2000, ÖkoBüro Wien and the ÖkoInstitut in Vienna have started procedures under the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions against the lack of transboundary EIA with public participation.

A conference of anti-nuclear groups in Germany and the Czech Republic in Munich in March 2017 continued investigations into alleged problems during primary circuit welding work in the Temelín unit 1 in 1993. Greens Fichtelgebirge organiser Brigitte Artmann announced the next steps to allow access for German experts to vital documentation and stated: "As long as we are alive and this issue has not been resolved, it is not closed."

UK – Hinkley Point C, Wylfa and Moorside

The Espoo Convention Implementation Committee found the UK in non-compliance with the Espoo Convention for not notifying other countries of its intention to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors. The UK reacted with a notification to all Espoo Convention parties, and currently, at least the Netherlands, Norway and Germany asked for a transboundary EIA.

The Netherlands and Austria also informed WISE they had been notified by the UK of the intention to build new nuclear capacity at Wylfa in Wales and are awaiting the start of a transboundary EIA procedure. With this, legal complaints from the Friends of the Irish Environment, An Taisce (the Irish Trust), the German member of the Bundestag Greens Sylvia Kötting-Uhl and German citizen Brigitte Artmann, have been successful. The Espoo Implementation Committee even went a step further by calling on the UK to halt construction work at Hinkley Point C until the transboundary EIA has been finalised. Construction work at Hinkley Point has, however, continued with the pouring of the first safety-relevant concrete.

Finland – Olkiluoto 1,2

The aging reactors 1 and 2 at Olkiluoto have received a life-time extension without public participation or an EIA during the decision-making procedures. NGOs are considering legal options.

Espoo Convention – Meeting of Parties

During the Espoo Convention Meeting of Parties 13‒16 May 2017 in Minsk, Belarus, nuclear issues will receive prominent attention. Lithuania and Belarus are involved in an ingrained battle over the quality of the Astravetz EIA (see above). The NGO CEE Bankwatch is organising a side-event to highlight the lack of environmental impact assessment before decisions on life-time extension of nuclear projects in Ukraine, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic and elsewhere. A special commission is to come with best practices around nuclear decisions, though draft documents do not address life-time extensions.

Doel 3 NPP: fissures in RDM reactor Vessel

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Eloi Glorieux, energy campaigner Greenpeace Belgium

Fissures in the reactor vessel of the Doel 3 reactor in Belgium were discovered using ultra-sound during inspections in June and July. The cracks possibly date back to the reactor's construction some 40 years ago by Dutch RDM (Rotterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij), which is no longer in business. Restart of the reactor after the regular scheduled inspections has been delayed. The shutdown for outage (with fuel discharged from the reactor) has been extended.

 Every 12 to 18 months Belgian nuclear power stations are subjected to an inspection of their installations and repair and maintenance operations. During this outage the reactor is shut down and the core is partially refuelled. During these outage periods the so-called ‘operating’ inspections are conducted to check the good condition of the reactor vessel (mainly weld zones between vessel elements). Non-destructive ultrasound measuring techniques are used. These inspections are carried out in accordance with standards developed for metallurgy by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (known under the name of Standards ASME XI). 

At Doel 3 this outage began in June 2012. A new ultrasound measuring technique was used for the first time during that inspection over the whole surface of the Doel 3 reactor vessel. This inspection was conducted 
by a specialist French firm on behalf of Electrabel. This is the first time in Belgium that the basic material of the reactor vessel was tested (elsewhere than in the weld zones). The whole wall of the reactor vessel was also inspec-ted, although the ASME XI standards only recommend inspection on sensitive components.

These first measurements revealed that further examination was necessary, which began on July 16. Numerous flaw indications (some reports say 8,000) in the basic steel material of the reactor vessel were detected in late June, in particular in the bottommost ring. These are "laminar" flaws parallel with the surface of the walls and, as such, theoretically not dangerous as they are normally not subject to stress.

Any repair to the vessel is practically impossible and, according to the FANC (Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control) is not the option to take, because it is feared that such an operation would create new stress in the ves-sel walls, which must absolutely be avoided. A replacement of the vessel is extremely difficult (high radiation dose, etc.) and has never been done anywhere in the world.

FANC expects the following actions from the licensee:
• In-depth investigation of the original reactor vessel construction file to check whether it is a matter of design flaw.
• Metallurgical investigation to detect the cause and explanation of any potential production flaws.
• Drafting of a complete justification file in the context of a restart. It will be submitted to the competent authority for approval. This file will attempt to demonstrate that the detected flaw indications do not represent any danger for the structural integrity of the reactor vessel.

Until these issues have been satisfactorily solved no restart will be allowed, according to FANC, which has also stated that it is questionable if Doel 3 will ever be restarted. 

Furthermore, the Tihange 2 reactor has been shut down on August 16 for its planned outage. It will undergo the same kind of inspections as those conducted at Doel 3, since its reactor vessel was forged by the same manufacturer (RDM) in the 1970s.

The nuclear safety authorities met on Thursday 16 August in Brussels on the initiative of the FANC. Beside delegates from the FANC, this technical meeting was attended by experts from the USA, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom. This meeting was aimed at taking stock of the situation at Doel 3. The attending safety authorities were also informed on the additional inspections asked by the FANC and its technical subsidiary Bel V. Furthermore, this international contact made it possible to share expertise on reactor vessel integrity and inspections. The purpose of the technical meeting was to give in-formation on the situation at Doel 3 and not to make a decision about its future, according to the FANC press release. A second meeting of the nuclear safety authorities will be held in October, to discuss the outcome of the additional investigations at Doel 3, which will be completed at the end of September.

Meanwhile, the Belgium government anticipated a longer shutdown of both Doel 3 and Tihange 2 and promised there will be no blackouts if the stay shut during the winter. Just a few weeks earlier a new phase-out plan was confirmed (see Nuclear Monitor 753, 3 August). According to that schedule Doel 1 and 2 will be closed in 2015, Doel 3 is planned to be closed in 2022 and Tihange 2 in 2023.

As said, RDM built (or took part in the construction of) a total of 22 reactor vessels (see box) during 1960-1984 when it ceased operations. Van Veen, a manager during that time admitted later, RDM had no clue how to built reactor vessels and it was a process of learning while doing: quality control, for instance was an unknown concept in submarine construction, their core-business at the time.  

But press reports from that time show that cracks were not an unfamiliar phenomena. The reactor vessel of the Dutch Borssele reactor was found to have cracks and delivery was delayed in 1971. Now, the Dutch nuclear safety authority (KFD) state that there are no cracks at the Borssele reactor vessel, for many reasons, but that they will look further into it. In 1979, three years before startup, cracks were found at the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 vessels, according to press reports at the time. The cracks are confirmed during additional examinations in 1981, but reactors are allowed to start up in 1982. Striking detail: head of Doel 3 construction at Electrabel at the time was De Roovere, now head of FANC.

NPPs with RDM reactor vessel (type, start-up date)
Argentina: Atucha-1* (PWR; 3-1974)
Belgium: Doel-3 (PWR, 6-1982); Tihange-2 (PWR, 10-1982)
Germany: Brunsbuettel** (BWR, 7-1976), Philippsburg-1** (BWR, 5-1979)
Netherlands: Borssele (PWR, 7-1973), Dodewaard** (BWR, 10-1968)
Spain: Santa Maria de Garona (BWR, 10-1971), Cofrentes (BWR, 10-1984)
Sweden: Ringhals-2 (PWR, 8-1974)
Switzerland: Leibstadt (BWR, 5-1984), Muehleberg (BWR, 7-1971)
United States: Catawba-1 (PWR, 1-1985), McGuire-2 (PWR, 5-1983), North Anna-1 (PWR, 4-1978), North Anna-2 (PWR, 8-1980), Quad Cities-1 (BWR, 4-1972), Sequoyah-1 (PWR, 7-1980), Sequoyah-2 (PWR, 12-1981), Surry-1 (PWR, 7-1972), Surry-2 (PWR, 3-1973), Watts Bar-1 (PWR, 2-1996)
* There is some uncertainty about the Atucha-1 RPV, it is removed from the OECD-list on August 26, after a denial that it was constructed at RDM by the nuclear regulatory commission of Argentina. However, other sources (like the German Jahrbuch der Atomwirtschaft, edition 1971 and 1972, available at the Laka library) state clearly some involvement of RDM. 
** NPP Dodewaard, Bruensbuttel en Philippsburg are in permanent shut down 

Sources: OECD/NEA, press release 16 August, updated 26 August 2012 / own research Laka Foundation.

Sources: Atoomenergie, Juli/August 1972 in Dutch, available at: / Interview Van Veen RDM, in: Republiek der Kerngeleerden, CD. Andriesse 1997, in Dutch, availabe 
/ FANC, Infofiche, August (updated), English version available at: www.fanc. be/nl/page/infofiche-over-de-reactor-en-het-reactorvat/1460.aspx / FANC, Press release, 16 August 2012: Doel 3: Safety Authorities Meet in Brussels / De Morgen, 23 August 2012, 
Contact:  Eloi Glorieux, energy campaigner Greenpeace Belgium
Email: eloi.glorieux[at]


Belgium confirms nuclear phase-out by 2025, but extends lifetime of Tihange-1

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Eloi Glorieux, Energy campaigner Greenpeace Belgium

On July 4, the Belgian government finally took a decision about the fate of nuclear power. According to the 2003 nuclear phase-out law, all seven PWR's (4 at Doel and 3 at Tihange, with a total of 5,900 MW) should be decommissioned after 40 years of operation. In 2015, the three oldest reactors Doel-1, Doel-2 (both 433 MW) and Tihange-1 (900 MW) will reach the age of 40. The four other reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned between 2022 and 2025. Today nuclear power produces 54% of the country's electricity.

In the governmental agreement of Decem-ber 2011, the majority parties agreed to respect “in principle” the 2003 nuclear phase-out law, but the closure of the three oldest reactors in 2015 would  be subject to an “equipment plan” about the security of supply. At the end of May, the state secretary for Energy, Mel-chior Wathelet, presented his equip-ment plan. The report, made by his administration, concluded that till 2017- 2018, under extreme winter conditions, temporary supply problems could occur if the three oldest reactors would be closed in 2015. Nuclear plant operator GDF-Suez/Electrabel stated clearly that they were not ready to invest in the necessary upgrades and back fittings of those old reactors if they would not get a life time extension approval for at least ten years. Finally, on July 4th, the minister council took the following decision:

  • The twin units Doel-1 and Doel-2 will be closed in 2015, after 40 years of operation as stipulated in the nuclear phase-out law. 
  • The lifetime of Tihange-1 will be extended with 10 years, till 2025. 
  • The four other reactors will be closed after 40 years of operation, as stipulated in the nuclear phase-out law : Doel-3 in 2022; Tihange-2 in 2023; Tihange-3 and Doel-4 in 2025.

The minister council also decided  to delete article 9 of the 2003 nuclear phase-out law, which stipulates that the lifetime of the reactors may be extended over 40 years “if the security of sup-ply is endangered”. The government argued that this will secure the nuclear phase-out calendar, so that no new lifetime extensions could be granted in the future. Furthermore the government decided to facilitate the investment 
in new flexible replacement capacity, especially thermal gas plants. Because of the lifetime extension of Tihange-1, the existing gas plants become less profitable. To compensate this, the government intends to subsidize new gas plants. It remains very questionable that de European Commission will allow this governmental support for new fossil plants. Furthermore, in an attempt to cut the electricity price, the gover-nment decided to place 1,000 MW of GDF-Suez/Electrabel's cheap nuclear capacity at the disposal of the other power companies. 

The anti-nuclear platform Stop Nuclear & Go Renewables, initiated by Green-peace Belgium, WWF Belgium, Bond Beter Leefmilieu Vlaanderen and Inter-Environment Wallonie, is not impressed by the governments decision, which looks like a typical Belgian compromise. By extending the lifetime of the 900 MW Tihange-1 reactor with ten years, investors in new and flexible production capacity like efficient modern gas plants or renewables, will be deterred. Why should they invest in new expensive production capacity, if they will have to compete with the cheap electricity of old reactors which have been written off already for two decades? By taking only 866 MW of nuclear capacity from Doel-1 and -2 off-line in 2015, the grid will still be dominated by nuclear base-load power, making it very difficult to integrate more renewable capacity into the grid.    

Tihange-1 is a second generation PWR, build in the early 1970's. An indepen-dent review of the recent EU stress tests performed on Tihange-1 concluded: 
“Both the probability and the potential consequences of a severe accident are relatively high, therefore the risk of Tihange-1 is unjustifiably high. Consi-dering all facts, we recommend to shut down Tihange-1 immediately.” (Antonia Wenish, Oda Becker: “Critical Review of the EU Stess Test Performed on Nuclear Power Plants.” Study commissioned by Greenpeace. Wien/Hannover, May 2012.) Some 840,000 peoples are living within 30 km from the Tihange NPP, including the cities of Liège and Namur. The German city of Aachen  (260,000 inhabitants) is at 60 km, the Dutch city of Maastricht (120,000 inhabitants) is at 40 km. 

Source and contact: Eloi Glorieux, Energy campaigner Greenpeace Belgium
Email: eloi.glorieux[at]


Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #823 - 4 May 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The checkered history of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors

Princeton University academic M.V. Ramana has written a useful summary of the troubled history of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) including the pebble-bed reactor sub-type. In the past, both Germany and the United States spent large amounts of money to design and construct HTGRs, four of which fed electricity into the grid. Other countries have also invested in HTGR technology. Ramana's analysis is of more than historical interest as several countries are either considering the construction of new HTGRs or pursuing research into the field.

Ramana writes:

"Proponents of HTGRs often claim that their designs have a long pedigree. ... But if one examines that very same experience more closely – looking in particular at the HTGRs that were constructed in Western Europe and the United States to feed power into the electric grid – then one comes to other conclusions. This history suggests that while HTGRs may look attractive on paper, their performance leaves much to be desired. The technology may be something that looks better on paper than in the real world ...

"Although Germany abandoned this technology, it did migrate to other countries, including China and South Africa. Of these, the latter case is instructive: South Africa pursued the construction of a pebble-bed reactor for a decade, and spent over a billion dollars, only to abandon it in 2009 because it just did not make sense economically. Although sold by its proponents as innovative and economically competitive until its cancellation, the South African pebble-bed reactor project is now being cited as a case study in failure. How good the Chinese experience with the HTGR will be remains to be seen. ...

"From these experiences in operating HTGRs, we can take away several lessons – the most important being that HTGRs are prone to a wide variety of small failures, including graphite dust accumulation, ingress of water or oil, and fuel failures. Some of these could be the trigger for larger failures or accidents, with more severe consequences. ... Other problems could make the consequences of a severe accident worse: For example, pebble compaction and breakage could lead to accelerated diffusion of fission products such as radioactive cesium and strontium outside the pebbles, and a potentially larger radioactive release in the event of a severe accident. ...

"Discussions of the commercial viability of HTGRs almost invariably focus on the expected higher capital costs per unit of generation capacity (dollars per kilowatts) in comparison with light water reactors, and potential ways for lowering those. In other words, the main challenge they foresee is that of building these reactors cheaply enough. But what they implicitly or explicitly assume is that HTGRs would operate as well as current light water reactors – which is simply not the case, if history is any guide. ...

"Although there has been much positive promotional hype associated with high-temperature reactors, the decades of experience that researchers have acquired in operating HTGRs has seldom been considered. Press releases from the many companies developing or selling HTGRs or project plans in countries seeking to purchase or construct HTGRs neither tell you that not a single HTGR-termed "commercial" has proven financially viable nor do they mention that all the HTGRs were shut down well before the operating periods envisioned for them. This is typical of the nuclear industry, which practices selective remembrance, choosing to forget or underplay earlier failures."

M. V. Ramana, April 2016, 'The checkered operational history of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,

All Belgians likely to be issued with iodine tablets

The entire population of Belgium is likely to be issued with iodine tablets, which help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid gland in the event of a nuclear accident or terrorist attack.

"Before, the iodine pills were only given to people living in a perimeter of 20 kms — now we are going to take measures for people within 100 kms," Health Minister Maggie De Block said on April 28. "We will provide iodine pills in the whole country."

All 11 million Belgians live within 100 km of a nuclear power plant when reactors in Belgium, France and the Netherlands are taken into account.

The announcement followed advice from Belgium's Superior Health Council. The Health Ministry said it would take the advice into account as it revises safety protocols to be finalized before the end of the year, but the Minister's statements indicate that a firm decision to accept the advice has already been taken.

"We are a very small and densely populated country surrounded by nuclear power plants both in our country and neighboring countries" and iodine pills are "cheap and efficient," said Nele Scheerlinck, a spokeswoman for the Federal Authority for Nuclear Control.

Belgium's nuclear industry has been subject to numerous security threats and scares as discussed in Nuclear Monitor #822. In addition, there are serious safety concerns including multiple cracks discovered in the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 pressure vessels and a controversial decision to allow the reactors to restart. German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said last month that Belgium should take offline Doel 3 and Tihange 2, which are close to the German border, because of safety concerns.

Protesters break into Finnish nuclear site, police attack

On Chernobyl Day, April 26, anti-nuclear protesters broke in to a Finnish construction site for a nuclear reactor to be supplied by Russia's Rosatom. Protesters said more than 100 people participated, while police estimated that close to 50 protesters gathered near the Fennovoima site and around 40 were detained. One group broke into the site while others lay down on the road leading to the site's entrance.

"We want to remind people that the Chernobyl plant was built by Rosatom's predecessor. I wouldn't do business with anyone with that kind of history," said Venla Simonen from the Stop Fennovoima protest group.

Site works have been ongoing for one year, and a protest camp has recently celebrated its first anniversary. The camp was able to stay inside the construction area over five months and was able to slow down construction works. During the summer of 2015, dozens of blockades took place. In September, after an eviction that lasted eight days, the camp moved outside the construction site to continue its activities with help from local supporters. Blockades and other activity against nuclear power did not stop at any point.

Protesters organized multiple actions in the week around Chernobyl Day. They blocked the road to the Fennovoima-Rosatom site on April 28 before the police attacked. Some people locked themselves together with pipelocks and some of the people locked on to heavy barrels. The activists had locked themselves to locks inside the barrels, and there were activists locked on to the barrel-activists, so they formed a human chain to block the traffic on the road.

It took almost three hours for the police to arrive at the blockade. But when they came there was a lot of them and they had riot equipment and police dogs. A helicopter circulated around the area. Police used rubber bullets and pepper spray and dismantled the blockade. Many protesters were taken to the custody. Police also attacked and destroyed two protest camp sites at the Fennovoima site.

Protesters said: "We don't accept giving in to repression and police violence, and the struggle against Fennovoima will continue. Now we'll need everyone to help build up the camp again, and to continue the fight and actions against Fennovoima. We invite comrades to this fight where ever you are – let's aim our actions towards the companies which are working with Fennovoima, the embassies of Finland, or the local police."

Sources and more information:

Belgium's nuclear security scares

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor


A number of nuclear security issues have emerged in Belgium in recent months, and long-standing problems have been exposed. Here we pull together some of the most illuminating commentary.

Academics Robert Downes and Daniel Salisbury summarize recent problems and provide some context:1

"Belgium's counter-terrorism efforts are once again being called into question following the recent tragedies in Brussels. The attacks were carried out against soft targets – the public check-in area of Brussels Airport and Maelbeek metro station – but a series of unusual and suspicious occurrences were also reported at nuclear facilities in the country. Occurring a week before a major international summit2 on nuclear security, these events highlight the very real threat to nuclear facilities. For Belgium, this recent episode is one item on a long list of security concerns.

"The US repeatedly has voiced concerns about Belgium's nuclear security arrangements since 2003. That year, Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian national and former professional footballer, planned to bomb the Belgian Kleine-Brogel airbase under the aegis of Al-Qaeda.3 The airbase, which holds US nuclear weapons, has seen multiple incursions by anti-nuclear activists who have gained access to the site's "protected area", which surrounds hardened weapons storage bunkers.4 Yet, Belgium only started using armed guards at its nuclear facilities weeks before the March 2016 attacks.5

"Beyond incursions, so-called "insider threats" have also cost Belgium dearly. The nation's nuclear industry comprises two ageing power stations first commissioned in the 1970s (Doel and Tihange), and two research facilities, a research reactor facility in Mol, and a radioisotope production facility in Fleurus.

"In 2014, an unidentified worker sabotaged a turbine at the Doel nuclear power station by draining its coolant.6 The plant had to be partially shut down, at a loss of €40 million per month. Based on this history, the Belgian authorities should be primed to take nuclear security especially seriously. But there are serious questions about whether they are.7

"Islamic State is believed to have taken possession of radiological materials, including 40kg of uranium compounds in Iraq.8 This suggests a possible interest in fabricating a radiological dispersal device – or "dirty bomb" – that would spread dangerous radioactive materials over a wide area.

"It had been assumed that IS was concentrating this activity in the Middle East. But that all changed in late 2015. A senior nuclear worker at the Mol research facility was found to have been placed under "hostile surveillance" by individuals linked to the Islamic State-sanctioned attacks in Paris.7 Reports suggested that the terrorist cell may have planned to blackmail or co-opt the worker to gain access to either the facility or radiological materials.

"Alongside the 2014 Doel sabotage incident, this raises the spectre of an "insider threat". A worker could use their access, authority and knowledge to sabotage a nuclear plant or remove material for malicious purposes.

"This concern is furthered by reports of a worker at the Doel plant, who was associated with the radical Salafist organisation Sharia4Belgium, joining Al-Qaeda-inspired militants in Syria in late 2012.6 Following his death in Syria, the Belgian nuclear regulator reported that "several people have ... been refused access to a nuclear facility or removed from nuclear sites because they showed signs of extremism"."

Before and after the March 22 terrorist attacks in Brussels, authorities revoked the security clearances of 11 workers at the Tihange nuclear power plant.9,10 After the March 22 attacks, all non-essential staff were sent home from the Tihange and Doel nuclear power plants to reduce the risk of unauthorized access, and military presence was increased at the sites.11,12

Patchy record

A February 29 analysis by the Center for Public Integrity outlines Belgium's patchy record on nuclear security:7

"In 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the reactor security issue with Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, according to a February 2005 U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.13 U.S. nuclear authorities also asked their counterparts in France ‒ which arms guards at its own nuclear sites ‒ to help persuade the Belgians to take the issue seriously.

"Three years later, many of the security upgrades urged by Washington were still not in place, due to what Belgian officials termed "unforeseen technical, budgetary, and management issues," according to a March 2007 U.S. cable disclosed by Wikileaks.14 But by late 2009, Belgian security authorities had completed some of the work and invited American officials to witness a security drill there.

"In the drill, 13 armed police units from the surrounding area responded to a mock attack on the reactor site by five supposed terrorists equipped with rifles and small explosives, who pretended to be trying to gain access to dangerous radioactive materials. U.S. officials on the scene termed the exercise a sign of progress, but said room for improvement remained, and urged the Belgians to take lessons from more robust "force-on-force" exercises conducted at similar facilities in the United States.

"It wasn't until 2013, nine years after Powell's complaint, that Belgium enacted laws strengthening its security clearance procedures and providing serious criminal penalties for both improper handling of radioisotopes and for attempted break-ins at the high-security areas of nuclear sites. An inspection team sent to SCK-CEN and other nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency in December 2014 concluded that "the physical protection system ... is robust" but also recommended additional measures to improve security. ...

"Scheerlinck, the nuclear regulatory spokeswoman, responded that although the government recently decided to create a "Nuclear Quick Response Team" within the federal police, arming the guards stationed on-site at such facilities is not currently being considered. Doing so "would give people a false sense of security and ... weapons should only be used by people who are properly trained to deal with the kind of situations that require an armed intervention (i.e. the police and military)," she said in an emailed comment.

"Even after taking some of the security precautions urged by Washington, Belgium ‒ which has seven operating nuclear reactors ‒ was embarrassed by several 2014 incidents15 that suggest important gaps remain."

Video surveillance and armed guards at nuclear plants

Last November, 10 hours of video footage of an employee of Belgium's nuclear research reactor centre SCK-CEN was discovered in a house being rented by Mohamed Bakkali, who was arrested on suspicion of helping to plot the November 2015 terrorist siege on Paris that killed 130 people.16,17,18 Belgian authorities believe the video camera was picked up from outside the employee's house by Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, the suicide bombers in the March 22 Brussels attacks. The existence of the video footage became public knowledge on February 18. The Belgian interior minister initially rejected a proposal to deploy troops at nuclear plants but changed his mind a fortnight later and deployed 140 soldiers to guard five nuclear sites. Until then, Belgium had no armed troops or armed guards at its nuclear facilities.

In the absence of any concrete evidence, the motives for the video surveillance have been the subject of speculation. A spokesperson for Belgium's nuclear regulator said: "We can imagine that the terrorists might want to kidnap someone or kidnap his family."18 Another spokesperson for the nuclear regulator raised the possibility of "an accident in which someone explodes a bomb inside the plant".19 Others have speculated that the plan was to kidnap the employee "potentially to gain access to the facility and acquire enough radioactive material to create a dirty bomb."20

Nuclear security expert Prof. Matthew Bunn from Harvard University questions whether the motivation was to acquire material for a dirty bomb since radiological materials are available in many locations where they would be much easier to steal, such as hospitals and industrial sites.21 He argues that the possibility that terrorists were (and are) seeking fissile material for nuclear weapons has been too quickly dismissed. The SCK-CEN site at Mol contains enough highly enriched uranium [HEU] for several nuclear bombs.

Bunn writes:21

"The Times story19 largely dismissed ‒ wrongly, in my view ‒ the idea that the HEU at SCK-CEN might have been the terrorists' ultimate objective, saying that the idea that terrorists could get such material and make a crude nuclear bomb "seems far-fetched to many experts." Unfortunately, as we document in detail in our recent report22, repeated government studies, in the United States and elsewhere, have concluded that this is not far-fetched ‒ that it is quite plausible that a sophisticated terrorist group could make a nuclear bomb if they got the needed nuclear material. ...

"Of course, just because the terrorists could find and monitor a nuclear official's home does not mean they could have broken in to SCK-CEN and gotten HEU or anything else. What did they think they could accomplish with this monitoring? One obvious possibility is that they envisioned either kidnapping the official or kidnapping his family to coerce him into helping them carry out whatever plot they had in mind. Such coercion is a frequent criminal and terrorist tactic. Breaking into a nuclear facility is not as simple as kidnapping someone. But a kidnapping might well contribute to a more complex plot.

"If the Belgian suicide bombers were the ones monitoring the nuclear official, it's possible they first planned to attack the country's nuclear infrastructure.23 They may have shifted to the airport when their plans were accelerated by the arrests of co-conspirators, or because of Belgium's deployment of armed troops to guard its nuclear facilities. But a spokesman at the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control told the Washington Post that they "knew nothing" of any such a plot24, and Belgian federal prosecutors have not confirmed any such plot.

"Press accounts of the possibility the terrorists were planning some kind of an attack on nuclear facilities have unduly played down the potential dangers of reactor sabotage. A story19 in The New York Times, for example, quotes an argument that the TATP explosive the terrorists were using would not get through the steel pressure vessel of a nuclear reactor. It is certainly true that to cause a major radioactive release, terrorists would have to understand how to overcome a number of different safety and security systems. Getting into a power plant with a suicide vest of explosives would not be enough. But as Fukushima made clear, cutting off a reactor's electricity and cooling water can cause a disaster that can provoke widespread panic and cause devastating disruption and economic losses."

US nuclear weapons in Belgium

Jeffrey Lewis from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies writes about the security risks associated with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in Belgium:25

"If you were a Belgian terrorist, why settle for a dirty bomb, when you have the option of stealing an honest-to-goodness nuclear bomb? The United States "forward deploys" about 180 B61 nuclear bombs at bases in Europe ‒ including a small number at a Belgian air base known as Kleine Brogel, about an hour outside of Brussels. These weapons are the sole remaining tactical nuclear weapon systems that the United States deploys abroad. ...

"The security of these nuclear weapons is terrible. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The U.S. Defense Department will trot out a spokesbot to tell you everything is fine. Let me tell you a story or two. In an earlier job, I ran a project that tried to outline options for what would become the 2009 Nuclear Posture Review. One of the better parts was the travel. I made a lovely visit to Brussels, where my team had a series of very high-level meetings at the European Union and NATO headquarters. There were some steak frites, a little lambic beer, and a lot of talk about nuclear weapons. And at the time, senior U.S. military officers made one thing very clear to us: The security at the bases stunk.

"One commander noted that the upgrades necessary to meet security requirements would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Another said his worst fear was that a group of activists would be able to get inside the shelters where the nuclear weapons are stored and use a cell phone to publish a picture of the vaults. And then it happened. In January 2010, a group of protesters who call themselves "Bombspotters" entered Kleine Brogel.4 Apparently the plan was to hang around on the tarmac of the runway and get arrested. But no one came to arrest them. ...

"It's true that the Bombspotters haven't been back to Kleine Brogel in a few years. But that's because they've been breaking into other locations. And, a couple of years ago, there was yet another incursion, by another group of activists, at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands.

"Security still stinks, as far as I can tell. Which brings us back to the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Do we really want to keep these weapons in Belgium, in light of what we now know are very large and organized jihadi networks in that country and France? Or in light of these security failings? The rationale for keeping nuclear weapons in Belgium and other NATO countries is the idea of burden-sharing ‒ the notion that Belgium and other European governments should share political responsibility for defending this contribution to their national defense. Yet, what contribution are U.S. nuclear weapons making, precisely, to European security? At present, they seem to pose more of a threat, a temptation for local terrorist networks."


1. Robert J. Downes and Daniel Salisbury, 30 March 2016, 'Is Belgium's nuclear security up to scratch?',






7. Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith, 29 Feb 2016, 'The Islamic State's Plot to Build a Radioactive 'Dirty Bomb'',


9. Rachel Middleton, 25 March 2016, 'Fears Brussels cell was plotting radioactive attack after 11 nuclear workers' access passes revoked',

10. 24 March 2016,

11. Angelique Chrisafis, 26 March 2016, 'Belgium steps up security at nuclear sites in wake of attacks',

12. Reuters, 22 March 2016, 'Non-essential staff at Belgian nuclear plants Doel and Tihange sent home',




16. 27 March 2016,

17. R. Jeffrey Smith, 25 March 2016, 'A Nuclear Wake-Up Call in Belgium',

18. Patrick Malone, 24 March 2016, 'Report: Brussels suicide bombers sought radioactive materials',

19. Alissa J. Rubin and Milan Schreuer, 25 March 2016, 'Belgium Fears Nuclear Plants Are Vulnerable',

20. Samuel Osborne, 19 Feb 2016, 'Isis suspects secretly monitored Belgian nuclear scientist, raising dirty bomb fears',

21. Matthew Bunn, 29 March 2016, 'Belgium Highlights the Nuclear Terrorism Threat and Security Measures to Stop it',




25. Jeffrey Lewis, 29 March 2016, 'Belgium's Failed State Is Guarding America's Nuclear Weapons',


Belgium's nuclear power program: Trade unions take action

Belgium's nuclear program has featured prominently in the media in recent months, and not just because of the security scares. There were the thousands of cracks in the pressure vessels of two reactors, and a fierce public debate over the lifetime extension of the oldest nuclear reactors. Last week, trade unions blocked access to the Tihange nuclear power plant for several days. Only the operators could enter the plant. The trade unions complain about bad relations with the Executive Board, which would not respect an agreement between the board and the trade unions. Trade unions also claim that working conditions have deteriorated. The discontent of the trade unions also has to do with their dissatisfaction with government policy. According to them, government is far too friendly to businesses. On Friday April 15, the trade unions and the managing director came to an agreement and the blockade was removed. During the action, electricity supply was not disrupted.

Belgian law provides for the closure of Belgium's seven reactors within 10 years. What will be the future for the staff of the two Belgian nuclear power plants? Will they be able to find another job within owner Engie Electrabel? With the same job quality and wage conditions? There is another important question. In recent years traditional utilities such as EDF, Eon and Engie have experienced hard times. Their business model is faltering. Will Engie Electrabel be sufficiently profitable to maintain the current wage policy? If not, employees could risk worse salary conditions. Will employees accept that, or will there be strikes and blockades of nuclear power plants? These are major issues but there is little discussion or debate about them in Belgium at the moment. Last week's action at the Tihange nuclear plant might be the harbinger of a long and important social struggle.

‒ Luc Barbé, independent consultant on energy issues

Belgium nuclear soap continues

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Peer de Rijk – Director, World Information Service on Energy

The story of the much-plagued Belgium reactors (Tihange 1-3 and Doel 1-4) continues. It's almost impossible to keep track of the number of incidents and accidents. The Belgium government wants to extend the life of these reactors (see Nuclear Monitor #815, 3 Dec 2015) and has reached an agreement with the owner, Electrabel.

While this agreement is still to be debated in the Parliament (mid-February), more and more people in both Belgium and neighboring Netherlands are getting uneasy and angry about the ongoing sequence of accidents and incidents. So much so that the Dutch Minister responsible for nuclear safety, Schultz van Haegen, was forced to organize a 'bilateral co-inspection'. She visited the Doel reactors on January 20, accompanied by the Belgium Minister Jambon and the Dutch and Belgium safety regulators, FANC and the ANVS.

As both Germany and Luxembourg have asked (or more or less demanded) Belgium to close at least the reactors where cracks were found (Tihange 2 and Doel 3), WISE urged the Dutch Minister to do the same – as more and more Dutch local city councils are also demanding more action from the national Dutch authorities.

The official report on the visit to be made by FANC and ANVS is still pending but the Belgium and Dutch Ministers came out of the site with the clear will to comfort people, claiming that most of the incidents are at the non-nuclear parts of the plants, the media is making it into a big issue, we and our safety people take care, we will be communicating more from now on, we will act responsibly in case of real danger, etc.

WISE organized a small action at the gates of Doel during the visit of the Minsters and organized a very successful gathering in the closest Dutch town, 20 kms from Doel, where 150 people came together to talk about possible activities. We are also building new alliances with all kinds of Belgium NGO's and citizen's initiatives.

More information:

Belgium: Reactor restarts and lifespan extensions but 2025 phase-out law remains, Nuclear Monitor #815,

Belgium and the END of nuclear power, Nuclear Monitor #800,


Belgium: Reactor restarts and lifespan extensions but 2025 phase-out law remains

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Eloi Glorieux − Senior Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Belgium.

FANC, the Belgian nuclear regulator, recently took two far-reaching decisions. On September 30, FANC accepted the Long Term Operation Action Plan for the two oldest reactors at the Doel nuclear power plant, paving the way for a 10 year lifetime extension.

And on November 17, FANC approved the Safety Case report of Electrabel/Engie. According to FANC, the nuclear operator sufficiently demonstrated that the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors can restart safely. Both reactors have been shut down since March 2014. In the summer of 2012 thousands of cracks were discovered in the reactor vessels.

Lifetime extension Doel 1 and 2

The decision to extend the lifespan of Doel 1 and 2 − the two 40 year old pressurized water reactors (PWR) − was taken in July after long debates in the parliament. The main justification used by Energy Minister Marghem was security of supply. Shortly after the vote in the parliament, this argument was refuted by the federal energy regulator, CREG, and the national grid operator, Elia. Both declared that the security of supply would not be endangered when both reactors were to be decommissioned in 2015.

At the end of September FANC approved Electrabel's LTO Action Plan, which was the last obstacle for plex (lifespan extension). Very remarkable is that several important safety requirements first imposed by FANC as a condition for lifetime extension have been watered down or even disappeared completely from the final action plan. In its original LTO Strategy Note of 2009, the Scientific Council of FANC urged that old reactors were upgraded to the safety level of the newest generation of PWR's, i.e. the EPR. The final LTO Action Plan for Doel 1&2, approved by FANC, urges not more than the safety level of the "most recent Belgian reactors", i.e. the safety level of PWRs from 1985.

The Belgian Stress Tests Action Plan, incorporated in the LTO-revision, also urged the replacement of the reactor pressure vessel heads of Doel 1&2. The approved LTO Action Plan now only asks that the necessity to replace the heads would be examined.

Also the installation of filtered ventilation systems on the reactor buildings of both units was identified as a necessary improvement action for plex. FANC now accepts that these important safety actions are implemented only within five years.

It became clear that when necessary actions to upgrade the safety of the old reactors were considered to be too expensive for the operator or would endanger the lifetime extension as such, they were weakened or postponed in time.

Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 challenged in court

The decisions to extend the lifetime of Doel 1&2, but also of Tihange 1 (decision taken already in December 2013) were taken without a preceding environmental impact assessment and cross-border public consultation process, as required by the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions and the European Directives.

Greenpeace Belgium therefore filed a legal complaint before the civil court. In July, the court declared itself incompetent to adjudicate because of the principle of separation of powers. Greenpeace appealed and the sentence is now expected in the coming months.

Another complaint was filed before the State Council against the approval by FANC of the LTO Action Plans of Doel 1&2. Greenpeace and Ecopower are also preparing a complaint before the European Commission for an infraction against the EU competition and state aid rules. In order to make the plex of the old units profitable for Electrabel/Engie, the government granted some unjustified benefits to the operator.

Cracked reactors will restart in December

In the summer of 2012, thousands of unexplained hydrogen flakes were detected at the reactor pressure vessels of Doel 3 and Tihange 2, both 1,000 MW PWR's from 1982 and 1983. In May 2013, although the origin of the problem remained unclear and uncertainty existed about the evolution of the cracks, FANC approved the restart of both reactors and imposed some additional tests. In March 2014, the results of these test necessitated once again the shut-down of the reactors.

After the presentation of a report in which the operator demonstrated the integrity of the reactor vessels under continued operation, FANC approved in November 2015 the restart of both reactors. Once again FANC revealed itself as a defender of the health of the nuclear industry, rather than as a watchdog for the safety and health of the public. Three years after the cracks were discovered, there is still not certainty about the cause of the problem or the evolution of it.

Doel and Tihange are situated very close to the cities of Antwerp and Liège. 1.5 million people are living within 30 km from the Doel nuclear plant. Under such circumstances, the restart of both reactors remains more than questionable.

Nuclear phase-out jeopardized but not undone

The decisions to plex the oldest reactors for another 10 years and to restart the two cracked reactors will surely hamper the nuclear phase-out in Belgium. However, the final phase-out date remains 2025. According to the new law, the phase-out calendar is now as follows:

2022 : Doel 3

2023 : Tihange 2

2025 : Doel 1, Doel 2, Doel 4, Tihange 1 and Tihange 4

Belgian government ignores EIA and public participation obligations

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Eloi Glorieux − Senior Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Belgium

While at the moment five out of Belgium's seven reactors are not working – causing huge debates about both safety and security of supply – the Belgium Parliament on June 18 accepted a Bill that regulates lifetime extension of the Doel-1 and 2 reactors.

Both are 433 MW pressurized water reactors (PWRs), started up in 1975, and with an original lifespan of 30 years. Under the earlier phase-out law of 2003, they were allowed to run for 40 years. Doel-1 reached that age on 15 February 2015 and has been shut down since then. Doel-2 was to be taken out of service on December 1 of this year.

The now-accepted amendment allows both reactors to remain operational until 2025. This is if the national nuclear regulator (FANC) gives approval. FANC is currently investigating whether the "Long Term Operation" (LTO) plan of the owner of the reactors (Engie/Electrabel) offers sufficient security guarantees for extended operation. Meanwhile NGOs are fighting the lifetime extension through legal proceedings.

FANC sets the bar very low

FANC in 1999 postulated that the old reactors could remain in service longer only if it could be demonstrated that they could match − if needed via upgrades − the safety levels of a new-build. However FANC has announced that weaker criteria will apply. According to FANC the reactors now only have to meet the standards of the current "youngest Belgian reactors." These, however, date from 1985. All the lessons learned after Chernobyl and Fukushima are not taken into account in these "youngest reactors".

From the LTO synthesis report1 one can learn that FANC is very lenient about the necessity to introduce and implement lessons learned after the "Fukushima stress tests".

Standard safety measures that apply to new build reactors these days (like a core catcher) are not required. Nor is it required that the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel is bunkered.

Some of the required actions to improve safety only have to be implemented later; some as late as five years after the start of the 10-year period of life-time extension. For example, filtered ventilation systems will only need to be installed in the reactor buildings by the end of 2019, when half of the period of lifetime extension has already passed.

It is expected that FANC will announce its decision in the coming months. Given the fact that the regulator seems to have lowered the bar, it is likely that Engie/Electrabel will get permission to run the Doel-1 and 2 reactors for 10 more years.

International obligations are ignored

During the parliamentary debates that preceded the adoption of the Bill there has been much discussion about whether such a decision has to be accompanied with a full Environmental Impact Assessment and a (cross-border) public consultation process. The State Council – the highest legal advisory body of the Belgium Government – gave its opinion on 8 May 2015: Yes, both an EIA and public consultation are indeed obligatory under (inter)national law.

Also, a legal opinion commissioned by the internationally well-known law firm Stibbe clearly indicated that an EIA with public participation should take place before any decision on lifetime extension can be taken. However the Belgium Minister for Energy, Marie-Christine Marghem, refuses to do so.

The State Council substantiates its opinion by referring to the "Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context" (the Espoo Convention) and the "Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters" (the Aarhus Convention). Both international conventions are ratified by Belgium. In addition, the State Council referred to the European Directive 2011/92 / EU (the EIA Directive) as well as Directive 92/43 / EEC (the so-called Habitat Directive).

All these conventions force countries to organize such undertakings for "any activity that may have a significant impact on the environment". The lifetime extension of nuclear reactors is clearly such an activity. A process to involve the public in decision making should not only be implemented in Belgium but also neighboring countries where a potential impact can be expected.

The government fears that organizing both a full EIA and a transboundary consultancy process will take so much time that it cannot be completed before the start of the official period of lifetime extension of the reactors. This would mean that Doel-1 would not be available until 2016 and Doel 2 would have to shut-down in December. Also Tihange 1, whose lifetime extension has already been approved, would have to close in October, as an EIA was not done there either.

But it's a bit strange to set aside international binding laws because you fear a possible result of applying those rules.

Greenpeace Belgium continues to fight the decision to not conduct an EIA and public consultation process in court. WISE is urging the Dutch national and local governments to urge the Belgians to indeed organize information and debate sessions in the Netherlands (the Doel nuclear power stations are located just a few kilometers from the border with the Netherlands).

The international organization Nuclear Transparency Watch has brought the case to the attention of the European Commission.

Dependency on nuclear threatens security of supply

The official justification for the plan to extend the lifetime of Doel-1 and 2 are identical to those used by previous Belgium governments, "to safeguard security of supply during the winters". This is a so-called chicken-and-egg debate since it is actually the excessive dependence on unreliable nuclear reactors that has threatened the security of supply.

The nuclear industry in Belgium has been plagued by many incidents and accidents. The Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors (both 1000 MW PWRs) were out of order between July 2012 and June 2013 after thousands of cracks were discovered in the reactor vessels. After further research FANC gave "conditional permission to again start production" but in March 2014 both reactors had to close down again. Additional tests showed inexplicable problems with the 'fracture toughness of the reactor vessels'. In the past 17 months these reactors have not produced any electricity.

Doel 4 (also 1000 MW PWR) was shut down after an act of sabotage in September 2014. The reactor started production again in December 2014 but investigations into the sabotage are still ongoing – more than 40 workers of the reactor are now forced to undergo a lie detector test. Forty of them so far refuse to do so.

Doel-1 was shut down in February this year as the official life-time was reached and legislation for lifetime extension was not (yet) in place.

Officially the nuclear phase-out law (in 2025) is still in place. But the current signal of postponed closure dates for Doel 1- and 2 undermines the energy transition and blocks investments in alternative, clean energy options.

The calendar for the closure and thus nuclear phase-out in Belgium is as follows − assuming the new legislative changes are implemented:

  • Doel 3: October 1, 2022 (40 years)
  • Tihange 2: February 1, 2023 (40 years)
  • Doel 1: February 15, 2025 (50 years)
  • Doel 4: July 1, 2025 (40 years)
  • Tihange 3: September 1, 2025 (40 years)
  • Tihange 1: October 1, 2025 (50 years)
  • Doel 2: December 1, 2025 (50 years.

Besides Doel-1 and 2 (433 MW) these are all 1000 MW PWRs.



More information:

'Belgium and the END of nuclear power', 19 March 2015, Nuclear Monitor #800,


Belgium to postpone closure of Doel 1 and 2?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Peer de Rijk − Director of WISE Amsterdam

Belgium's Parliament is debating legislation put forward by the energy minister which proposes extending the lifetime of the nuclear power reactors Doel 1 and 2 for 10 more years.

According to the phase-out policy agreed upon by earlier governments, the Doel 1 reactor should have been permanently shut down on February 15 of this year (it was shut down in February, but may be restarted). Doel 2 was supposed to close no later than 1 December 2015.

The Council of State, an advisory body to the government, warned the minister that − in order to be legally correct − a decision to extend reactor lifetimes would require a new licensing procedure including an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a national and trans-boundary public consultation process, as prescribed by the European Directive 2011/92/EU and the Aarhus and Espoo conventions, both signed and ratified by Belgium.

So far Belgium has neglected the advice. Even the independent Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) − which is supposed to make sure the government follows proper procedures – has published a paper stating that a full EIA would be too complicated and time-consuming given the urgency for Belgium to safeguard energy supply.

The position of the government and the 'independent' FANC has provoked critical responses from a number of organisations including Greenpeace Belgium and the European watchdog organisation Nuclear Transparency Watch (NTW).

NTW warned that the proposal to extend the lifetime of the 40 years old Doel 1 and 2 reactors threatens to break international rules for transparency. If the right of the public to participate in an EIA is not respected, NTW will seek advice on initiating a formal complaint to the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention.

NTW chair and member of the European Parliament Michèle Rivasi sent a letter to the energy minister stressing the importance of respecting international obligations to conduct a full-scale EIA and a cross-border public participation process in advance of any final decision.

NTW is a network founded in 2013 by an initiative of Members of the European Parliament from five different political groups. NTW promotes transparency in nuclear issues and increases the contribution of civil society in the governance of nuclear activities. WISE has been a member since late 2014.

Greenpeace Belgium is trying to prohibit lifetime extensions for the two reactors. In June 2013, the Belgian state was taken to court because of the lack of an adequate nuclear emergency preparedness and response plan (EP&R). The request was to force the Belgian state to update its EP&R plans within six months and to take into account the experiences and lessons from Fukushima. The court was also asked to force the government not to restart the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors before adequate EP&R plans are operational. Doel 3 and Tihange 2 have been offline since March 2014 due to concerns about the integrity of their reactor pressure vessels.

On 19 February 2015, the hearings took place before the tribunal in Brussels and on 1 April the final verdict was published. In a disappointing ruling the judge declared himself incompetent to bring in a verdict. He stated that a ruling would go against the constitutional rule of separation of powers.


NTW press release, 30 April 2015,

Email communications with Greenpeace Belgium.

Belgium daily paper Het Laatste Nieuws, 5 May 2015


Nuclear Transparency Watch, head of operations Marie-Alix Verhoeven,

More information:

'Belgium and the END of nuclear power', Nuclear Monitor #800, 19 March 2015,


Belgium and the END of nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Belgium is a microcosm of the ageing nuclear power industry. The International Energy Agency predicts a "wave of retirements"1 − almost 200 reactor shut downs by 2040 − and argues that it is unclear whether new build will offset the "tidal wave" of reactor shut downs over the next 20 years.2 Belgium is at the sharp edge of this new nuclear era: the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning, the END.

Belgium's seven reactors − all pressurized water reactors − are all operated by Electrabel, a GDF Suez subsidiary. Electrabel owns 100% of two reactors, 89.8% of four reactors and 50% of one reactor. EDF and SPE are the other companies with ownership stakes.3

When all seven reactors were operating, they supplied about half of Belgium's electricity. All are due to be shut down by the end of 2025. Belgium's nuclear phase-out law mandates the shut down of six reactors when they have operated for 40 years − with the exception of Tihange 1, which is due to be shut down in 2025 when it has operated for 50 years.

All seven reactors have been in the news over the past year:

  • Doel 1: Shut down when its 40-year licence expired in February 2015.
  • Doel 2: Now operating but due to be shut down in December 2015. GDF Suez / Electrabel is negotiating a possible licence extension for Doel 1 and 2 to operate for another 10 years, and seeking regulatory approval.
  • Doel 3 and Tihange 2: Offline since March 2014 due to concerns about the integrity of reactor pressure vessels; future uncertain.
  • Doel 4: Offline for more than four months in 2014 due to suspected sabotage of the high-pressure turbine. Now operating.
  • Tihange 1: Now in its fortieth year of operation but licensed to operate for another 10 years. Greenpeace has initiated a legal challenge against the licence extension, because of the failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and cross-boundary consultation in line with Belgium's obligations under the Espoo Convention (the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context). Court hearings are scheduled for March 24 and the judge is expected to present his verdict soon after.
  • Tihange 3: Briefly shut down following a fire in December 2014. Now operating.

Policies and politics

Nuclear power policies and laws have been in flux over the past two decades:3

  • In 1999, the government announced that reactor lifetimes would be limited to 40 years, and banned further reprocessing.
  • In 2003, the Belgian Parliament passed legislation banning the building of new power reactors and limited the operating lives of existing reactors to 40 years.
  • In 2009, the government decided to postpone the phase-out by 10 years, so that it would not begin before 2025. This would allow the licensing of reactor life extensions. Reactor operators agreed to pay a special tax of €215−245 million (US$227−259m) per year from 2010−14, and more thereafter. GDF Suez also agreed to subsidise renewables and demand-side management by paying at least €500 million (US$528m) for both, and it maintaining 13,000 jobs in energy efficiency and recycling.

However, an election in April 2010 occurred before the agreed proposals were passed by parliament and thus the nuclear phase-out law remains in place. In July 2012 Belgium's Council of Ministers announced that Doel 1 and 2 were to close in 2015 after 40 years of operation, but Tihange 1 would be permitted to operate to 2025. This was written into law in December 2013. The government said that it had rewritten the 2003 law so that its current stance could not be changed by decree, and therefore the timing of the phase-out "is now final."3,4

In December 2014 the Council of Ministers from the new ruling coalition government agreed that Doel 1 and 2 could continue operating for a further 10 years, to 2025. Energy minister Marie-Christine Marghem said that it was an "unconditional prerequisite" that the Belgian nuclear regulator − the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) − approve licence extensions for the two reactors. She noted that Belgium's planned nuclear phase-out by the end of 2025 remains in place.4

The government decision to allow Doel 1 and 2 to continue to operate for a further 10 years was partly a result of problems with other reactors − in particular the outages of Tihange 2 and Doel 3 and uncertainty about their future. GDF Suez / Electrabel is in negotiation with the Belgian government over the Doel 1 and 2 licence extensions but an agreement has not yet been reached − hence the shut down of Doel 1 in February in accordance with the nuclear phase-out law. Further, the regulator FANC has not yet approved licence extensions for Doel 1 and 2.4

GDF Suez / Electrabel is unwilling to invest up to €600−700 million (US$634−740m) in necessary upgrades to Doel 1 and 2 unless the government provides a "clear legal and economic framework" to justify the investment. Negotiations include removal of the nuclear generation tax introduced by a previous government − according to the World Nuclear Association, that tax cost the company €397 million (US$419m) in 2014.5

As Rianne Teule, campaign director for Greenpeace Belgium, put it: "In order to agree to such a large investment, Electrabel demands 'a clear legal and economic framework'. Read: 'a good deal to reduce the investment risks'. It's the Belgian people who will pay the price, one way or another. If not through increased taxes, when Electrabel's payments to the state decrease, then through increased electricity prices when Electrabel passes on their investments to their clients."6

In 2012 the government passed laws increasing the tax on nuclear operators. The government set a total contribution from nuclear operators for 2012 of €550 million (US$581m), of which Electrabel had to pay €479 million (US$506m). In June 2013 Electrabel filed an appeal to Belgium's Constitutional Court, claiming the tax violated a protocol signed by the company and the federal government in 2009, which included a lower tax, and took no account of declining revenue from nuclear power generation. In April 2014 the Court of First Instance in Brussels rejected Electrabel's claim. The company appealed, but the appeal was rejected in July 2014. Electrabel said it would continue "to examine all potential legal means in order to defend its interests" and "examine all options concerning the future of its nuclear activities in Belgium."3,7

According to Greenpeace, nuclear power is part of the energy security problem, not part of the solution: "The reason for the potential electricity supply problem is Belgium's excessive dependency (55%) on unreliable nuclear power. A political decision to extend the lifetime of two old reactors will not mitigate this acute supply problem. It will take at least a year to implement the necessary safety upgrades, and to order and fabricate new fuel for them. Extending the legally fixed phase-out calendar will undermine investment in real climate solutions such as energy efficiency and renewables."8

Tihange 2 and Doel 3 − compromised reactor pressure vessels

Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were taken offline in 2012 when ultrasound testing suggested the presence of cracks in their reactor vessels. Further investigations indicated that the defects are so-called hydrogen 'flakes'. FANC allowed Electrabel to restart the reactors in May 2013. However the reactors were again taken offline in March 2014 after Electrabel reported that tests to investigate the mechanical strength of irradiated specimens of similar material "did not deliver results in line with experts' expectations".9 FANC said that "a fracture toughness test revealed unexpected results, which suggested that the mechanical properties of the material were more strongly influenced by radiation than experts had expected."10

In January 2015, FANC said the process to restart the reactors had been extended from April to July so that Electrabel could answer further questions. In February, FANC announced that additional inspections revealed more extensive flaking within the pressure vessels of the two reactors than previously identified. FANC said 13,047 flaw indications have now been found in the vessel of Doel 3 and 3,149 in that of Tihange 2. Further test results are expected by April.1,9

FANC Director General Jans Bens said: "This may be a global problem for the entire nuclear industry. The solution is to implement worldwide, accurate inspections of all 430 nuclear power plants."11

Shortly after approving the restart of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in May 2013 − a decision that was contested at the time and seems unwise in hindsight − Bens was seriously downplaying nuclear risks: "The harbour of Antwerp is being filled with windmills, and the chemical industry is next to it. If there is an accident like a break in one of the wings, that is a guillotine. If that goes through a chloride pipe somewhere, it will be a problem of a bigger magnitude than what can happen at Doel. Windmills are more dangerous than nuclear power plants."12

Two materials scientists have said the unexpected flaws in Doel 3 and Tihange 2 could be related to corrosion from normal operation, with potential implications for reactors worldwide. Prof. Digby MacDonald said: "The consequences could be very severe ... like fracturing the pressure vessel. Loss of coolant accident. This would be a leak before break scenario. ... My advice is that all reactor operators, under the guidance of the regulatory commissions should be required to do an ultrasonic survey of the pressure vessels. All of them." Prof. Walter Bogaerts said: "If I had to estimate, I would really be surprised if it ... had occurred nowhere else.13,14

Electrabel reacted to the latest news by saying that it may be willing to "sacrifice" one of the two reactors to allow destructive testing to learn more about the problem.15

Doel 3 and 4: Fire and sabotage

On 1 December 2014 at 10:30am, a fire began in the electrical substation transformer building at Doel and led to an emergency shutdown of reactor #3. The fire was put out by the local fire service and the reactor was restarted at 5am the following day.16 Fires at nuclear power plants pose significant risks to reactor safety due to the potential disruption of the electrical supply to vital reactor safety functions. The risks in Belgium are all the greater because of the high population density and the concentration of seven reactors at just two sites.17

Sabotage at Doel 4

The Belgium nuclear industry was shaken on 5 August 2014 when it was revealed that sabotage had caused, in Electrabel's words, "significant damage" at Doel 4. Lubricant had been discharged from the high-pressure turbine through a valve which had probably been opened deliberately by a worker. Some 6,000 professionals from 15 companies participated in the repair of the turbine. The repair involved the manufacture of 2500 blades at four plants in China, Croatia, Italy and Switzerland.18 The reactor was restarted on December 19.19

The END of nuclear power

When the last reactor is shut down in 2025, that won't be the end of Belgium's nuclear program but the beginning of the END − the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning.

In addition to the decommissioning of seven reactors, Belgians will somehow have to manage: high-level nuclear waste currently stored at Dessel and at reactor plants; larger volumes of low- and intermediate-level waste; and other nuclear facilities now in various stages of decommissioning including a MOX fuel fabrication plant and the Eurochemic reprocessing plant at Dessel.


1. International Energy Agency, 2014, 'World Economic Outlook 2014',
2. Nick Cunningham, 19 Feb 2015, 'Is There Any Hope Left For Nuclear Energy?',
3. World Nuclear Association, 17 Feb 2015, 'Nuclear Power in Belgium',
4. WNN, 12 Feb 2015, 'Belgian reactor shutdown imminent',
5. WNA Weekly Digest, 27 Feb 2015,
6. Rianne Teule, 22 Dec 2014, 'Belgium's government is Electrabel's slave',
7. World Nuclear News, 18 July 2014, 'Belgian court rejects nuclear tax complaint',
8. Eloi Glorieux, 13 Sept 2014, 'Belgium's nuclear reactors are phasing themselves out',
9. WNN, 17 Feb 2015, 'Further flaws found in Belgian reactor vessels',
10. FANC, 13 Feb 2015, 'Doel 3/Tihange 2: new update',
11. 13 Feb 2015, 'Veel meer scheuren in kerncentrales dan gedacht',
12. Justin McKeating, 23 May 2013, 'Fact not fiction: Renewable energy is safer than nuclear power',
13. Greenpeace, 17 Feb 2015, 'Thousands more cracks found in Belgian nuclear reactors, Belgian regulatory head warns of global implications',
14. Greenpeace, 15 Feb 2015, 'Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessel Crisis',
15. Greenpeace, 17 Feb 2015, 'Thousands of cracks in Belgian reactors, potentially a global nuclear problem',
16. Greenpeace, 3 Dec 2014,
17. Bart Martens, December 2014, 'De Economische Impact van een Kernramp In Doel', study commissioned by Greenpeace Belgium,
18. WNN, 5 Dec 2014, 'Doel 4 restart approaches',
19. 19 Dec 2014, 'Doel 4 reactor reopens',