Belgium agrees to full nuclear exit by 2025

31 October 2011
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
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Nuclear turbine hall

Nuclear turbine hall

Belgium's two remaining nuclear power stations will be shut down after a conditional agreement was reached by political parties.

A government spokesman confirmed that the plan for a shut-down of the three oldest reactors by 2015 and a complete exit by 2025 would be conditional on finding enough energy from alternative sources to prevent any shortages.

"If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003," a spokeswoman for Belgium's energy and climate ministry said.

Belgium, which has seven nuclear reactors at two plants owned by GDF-Suez unit Electrabel, had passed a law in 2003 outlining the planned shutdowns.

GDF Suez's share prices dropped after the decision for a complete nuclear exit, which has been considered by Belgium for a long time.

The Belgian public have become more hostile to nuclear power since the Japan nuclear crisis earlier this year, which prompted Europe's biggest economy Germany to announce it would phase out all its atomic plants by 2022.

Atomic generation is carbon free and Germany's plans have raised concerns that more polluting fossil fuels will be used to ensure there is enough baseload power.

Renewable energy can be intermittent, meaning coal and gas have to be used as back-up.

Belgium's two nuclear sites are operated by Electrabel.

Rival SPE, in which EDF owns a 63.5 per cent stake, has drawing rights on some seven per cent of capacity, and EDF itself has the right to about eight per cent.

Electrabel said this week it did not want to comment on the nuclear exit as it had so far not received an official confirmation. GDF Suez and EDF also gave no comment.

In 2009, Belgium decided to keep its oldest nuclear reactors running for 10 years longer than planned in 2003 but this change never came into force as the government that decide the measure lost power.

Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5860 MW that will be lost if the two nuclear sites at Doel and Tihange are shut.

"The government will actively look for new investors and sites that are still unused to see what can be done," the spokeswoman said.

The political parties also discussed how much more they would tax Electrabel, which already agreed in 2009 to pay between 215 million and 245 million euros per year in the period 2010-2014, for operating the nuclear power plants.

Belgian business daily L'Echo said earlier this month that Elio Di Rupo, the French-speaking Socialist party chief leading coalition talks, wanted to charge the nuclear power industry, dominated by Electrabel, 1 billion euros per year.

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