Country profile: Belgium

Summary figures for 2015

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Country
Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2015
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
Belgium
7
25.0
**
38.5
 
OECD Europe
131
805.0
22.9
 
OECD Total
317
1 878.7
18.4
 
NEA Total
352
2 073.9
18.7
 

** Low nuclear production due to pressure vessel issues at Doel 3 and Tihange 2.

Country report

On 16 January 2003, the Belgian federal parliament voted a law that promulgates the gradual phase-out of nuclear fission energy for commercial electricity production. This law prohibits the construction of new nuclear power plants and sets a 40-year limit on the operational period of existing plants. According to this law, all reactors would have been permanently shut down between 2015 and 2025.

However, successive governments have amended the law in order to ensure the security of supply of electricity, while confirming the decision to phase out all nuclear power reactors by 2025. On 4 July 2012, it was decided to postpone the shutdown of Tihange 1 by ten years. On 18 December 2014, the current federal government decided to allow the Doel 1 and 2 reactors to continue operating for ten more years, conditional on approval from the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC/AFCN) and an agreement with their operator and owner, GDF SUEZ, a subsidiary of ELECTRABEL. Following the approval by the FANC/AFCN, this decision was confirmed by parliament in June 2015.

The shutdown calendar is therefore as follows:

In summer 2012, the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 units were taken offline by the nuclear operator because of fault indications discovered in the pressure vessels by specific in-service inspections not required by procedures. Further analysis showed that the fault indications consisted of hydrogen flakes which originated during steel manufacturing. The two units were restarted in June 2013, but then shut down again in March 2014 after the operator had performed additional tests requesting further investigations. Finally, after an international peer review by experts in November 2015, the Belgian regulator authorised their restart based on safety case reports that provided an adequate demonstration of the structural integrity of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 up to 40 years of operation.1 The two units resumed operation in December 2015.

As mentioned in previous reports, the Belgian government approved the near-surface disposal facility for low- and intermediate-level short-lived waste at the municipality of Dessel. The Belgian Waste Management Organization (NIRAS/ONDRAF) has prepared a safety case in order to obtain a construction and operation licence for the facility from the safety authorities. In 2011, Belgium requested the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) to organise a peer review of key aspects of the safety case. The review was completed in September 2012 and the key findings were presented to Belgian stakeholders. The main conclusion was that the long-term safety strategy and the safety assessment methodology are, in general, credible and robust. A number of recommendations were formulated with respect to future research and development activities, design improvements and the presentation of the safety results. The safety case was adapted taking into account the recommendations and was submitted to the safety authorities at the beginning of 2013. NIRAS/ONDRAF is currently formulating answers to the 270 questions and remarks expressed by FANC/AFCN, according to a strict methodical and systematic process. This procedure is still ongoing. Once a licence for the surface storage of category A waste in Dessel has been granted, the repository could be in operation after four years. Disposal and closure operations would last about 100 years.

During 2015, Belgium continued to actively support the High-level Group on the Security of Supply of Medical Radioisotopes (HLG-MR) of the NEA. Belgium has continued to do the necessary efforts to implement the policy principles approved by the HLG-MR and the NEA Steering Committee in order to improve the security of supply of medical isotopes.

After the positive decision by the Belgian government in March 2010 on the MYRRHA project (a multipurpose fast-spectrum irradiation facility, able to operate in the subcritical [accelerator driven system configuration] and the critical mode) and the approval of financing for the first period (2010-2014), efforts have since continued towards the realisation of the project, including developing:

At present, Belgium and the Belgian Nuclear Research Center (SCK•CEN) are working towards setting up an international consortium to ensure additional financing of the project. In 2015, the government extended its support for MYRRHA to 2016 and 2017.

The preliminary works for the refurbishment of the material testing reactor BR2 (Belgian Reactor 2) started at the end of 2014. SCK•CEN decided to invest in the extension of the irradiation capabilities of BR2, including the development of irradiation facilities to irradiate Gen IV/MYRRHA candidate materials in representative conditions. The refurbishment took place in 2015 and early 2016. The BR2 will restart operations during the last trimester of 2016.

1. FANC (2015), "Flaw Indications in the Reactor Pressure Vessels of Doel 3 and Tihange 2: Final Evaluation Report 2015", www.fanc.fgov.be/GED/00000000/4000/4027.pdf.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2016

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Last reviewed: 21 December 2016