Belgium advances plan to extend operations at Doel, Tihange
The Belgian government has signed a nonbinding letter of intent with Electrabel, a subsidiary of the French utility Engie, to keep nuclear a part of Belgium’s energy mix for an additional 10 years.
Electrabel operates Belgium’s two nuclear power plants, the four-unit Doel and three-unit Tihange.
“There is an agreement in principle between the Belgian state and Engie regarding the extension of nuclear power stations Doel-4 and Tihange-3,” wrote the nation’s prime minister, Alexander De Croo, in a series of tweets on July 22. “The Belgian government takes its responsibility so that our country regains some control over its own energy supply. This agreement is a first crucial step and an important sign of trust between both parties. The aim is to reach a final agreement by the end of this year so that our country is assured of sufficient electricity in turbulent geopolitical times.”
Under the plan, the two reactors, both 1,038-MWe pressurized water reactors that began commercial operation in 1985, would be taken off line in 2025 but restarted in 2026.
Context: Last December, the Belgian government announced a tentative agreement to close all seven units at Doel and Tihange by 2025, confirming a commitment made in October 2020 when it took office. The agreement had called for the construction of two gas-fired facilities to compensate for the loss of electricity generation from the nuclear plants.
In March of this year, however, due in large part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the stratospheric energy prices that hit Europe as a result, the government announced a change of heart, stating that it would seek to extend the operational life of Doel-4 and Tihange-3 through 2035.