Belgium Rethinking Phase Out Schedule

After recently shutting down one of Belgium's six remaining nuclear reactors the federal government is now considering extending the operation of the three oldest reactors. These include unit 2 of the Tihange NPP, which was shut down in January, and units 1&2 of the Doel NPP which are to be disconnected from the grid by 2025 in line with the 2003 nuclear phase-out law.

Doel NPP Facing several potential energy supply headwinds, the Belgian government is reconsidering its nuclear plant phase out schedule and has asked French utility Engie to study options for keeping the oldest Belgian plants operating beyond the original shut-down schedule, according to reports.

On January 31, Unit 2 of the Tihange nuclear power plant in Belgium was permanently shut down in compliance with the country’s nuclear phase out law. Soon after, however, with five reactors left in operation, the government asked Engie to consider extending the operating lives of Doel Units 1 and 2 and Tihange Unit 1 through 2027. Surprisingly, this development was supported by the Greens, the most prominent coalition in the county that favored the shut-down strategy.

Engie had already agreed to extend the operating lives of Doel Unit 4 and Tihange Unit 3 for an additional 10 years. However, the latest extension is more complicated, as the older plants will require costly upgrades to remain in operation, according to Nuclear Engineering International.

Belgium’s grid operator Elia prompted the latest policy shift by issuing a report that predicted winter electricity shortages for 2025-2026 and beyond. Previous estimates had not been as dire concerning power supplies.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and falling nuclear power production in France has contributed to the shifting attitude towards plant shut downs. “The war in Ukraine and the problems in the French nuclear energy sector have made us look at ways to create more certainty and reduce risks in the energy supply, said energy ministry spokesman Jonas Dutordoir.

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