Belgium’s nuclear phase-out policy claims second victim

February 2, 2023, 10:34AMNuclear News
The Tihange nuclear power plant. (Photo: Engie Electrabel)

Unit 2 at Tihange, one of Belgium’s two nuclear power plants, was permanently disconnected from the grid late on the evening (local time) of January 31, operator Engie Electrabel has announced.

The 1,008-MWe pressurized water reactor is the second unit in Belgium’s nuclear reactor fleet to be retired in accordance with the country’s 20-year-old law mandating a gradual phase-out of nuclear power. The first Belgian unit to be retired, Doel-3, a 1,006-MWe PWR, was shut down on September 23, 2022. Remaining in operation are Doel-1, -2, and -4 and Tihange-1 and -3.

Located in the province of Liege on the banks of the river Meuse, Tihange-2 operated just short of a full 40 years (it began its commercial run in June 1983), generating more than 270 terawatt-hours of electricity.

What they’re saying: “The final shutdown of Tihange-2 is an important milestone in the history of our site,” said Antoine Assice, director of the Tihange plant. “My thanks go to all the employees who were involved in the construction and operation of the plant. Thanks to them, today we can proudly look back on 40 years of electricity production in complete safety. With the same care, our employees have also been working for several years on the preparation of the dismantling of Tihange-2. . . . I know we can count on our colleagues to approach this new challenge with the same dedication and professional pride as ever. One thing will not change: Nuclear safety will always remain our first priority, until the last day.”

Background: In 2003, Belgium passed legislation to wean itself off nuclear power by 2025. While the government later agreed to extend the lives of the three oldest units—Doel-1 and -2 and Tihange-1, all of which began commercial operation in 1975—the 2025 phase-out date remained in place.

That date was confirmed by Belgium’s current seven-party coalition government in December 2021, but by March of last year—due in large part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resultant energy price hikes—the government announced a partial change of heart, stating that it would seek to extend the operational lives of Doel-4 and Tihange-3 through 2035.

While those two reactors are still scheduled to be pulled from service in 2025, the Belgian government and Engie signed an agreement earlier this month that would see the units restarted in 2026 for a 10-year run.

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