Belgium extends lifespan of two nuclear reactors

Belgium extends lifespan of two nuclear reactors

Dhe Belgian government has reached an agreement with the French energy company Engie to modernize two nuclear power plants in the country and let them run for ten years longer. Both sides reached a framework agreement that provides for the operation of the reactors in a new company in which the Belgian state has a 50/50 share. In addition, parameters for the state’s participation in the costs of dismantling and final storage of nuclear waste were agreed, as the government announced on Monday evening.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

The agreement is important, said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, “because it will help guarantee our security of supply in the years to come.” In the future, control will be exercised over the electricity produced in Belgium, “and nuclear energy is generally cheaper than gas”. With their agreement, both sides implemented a declaration of intent to extend the lifespan in July. The negotiations were led by Tinne van der Straeten, an energy minister from the Greens.

Difficult state of government

The governing coalition, consisting of seven parties, had agreed in principle to reverse the nuclear phase-out decided in 2003 as a result of Germany. Otherwise, the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactor blocks would have had to be shut down in 2025 as the last of a total of six blocks. Although they will now be taken off the grid for a good year and modernized, they are scheduled to run for a total of ten more years from November 2026. According to studies, without the extension there would have been an acute supply gap.

The Belgian government had a difficult time negotiating with Engie. The group originally refused to extend the terms. After the political change in Brussels, he was in a strong negotiating position and pushed for financial concessions. According to the new model, the group and the Belgian state will share investments and revenues.

How high the costs for the processing of the reactors after the end of the term and the final storage of the nuclear waste remain open for the time being. The aim is a capped amount that Engie pays. A complex formula was developed for this, on the basis of which a new estimate is now to be made. If the real costs are then higher, the state has to step in, unless Engie is responsible for it. The group has already set aside 15 billion euros. The French media reported a possible total cost of 20 billion euros.

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