Country profile: Belgium

Summary figures for 2014

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.

Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2014
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
OECD Europe
1 888.0

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

Country report

On 16 January 2003, the Belgian federal parliament adopted 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 (NPPs) and sets a 40-year limit on the operational period of existing plants. The Belgian government decided, on 4 July 2012, to postpone by ten years the shutdown of Tihange 1. This decision was confirmed by law at the end of 2013. The first reactor to be shut down was to be Doel 1 in February 2015, followed by Doel 2 in December 2015. In 2014, the shutdown calendar was therefore the following:

However, on 18 December 2014, the current federal government decided that it would allow the Doel 1 and 2 reactors to continue operating for a further ten years until 2025 in order to ensure electricity supply after unexpected issues brought about the shutdown of two of the larger reactors in the seven-unit fleet, as outlined below. The government also confirmed the decision to phase out all nuclear power reactors by 2025. The long-term operation of the two reactors remains conditional on the approval by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC/AFCN) and an agreement with their operator and owner, GDF SUEZ subsidiary ELECTRABEL.

In the course of 2012, during a routine investigation of the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 pressure vessels with a new type of ultrasonic equipment, a number of fault indications were discovered, leading to the decision to shut down the reactors. After a thorough review, the structural integrity of the steel reactor casings of both units were considered safe and both units restarted in May 2013. However, on 26 March 2014, the results of further metallurgical testing led ELECTRABEL to shut down both units again.

Before being allowed to restart both reactors, ELECTRABEL must first submit a safety case that convincingly demonstrates that the presence of hydrogen flakes in the walls of the reactor pressure vessels does not compromise their structural integrity. First-of-a-kind testing procedures have been undertaken at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN). The safety case will be thoroughly reviewed using the specific expertise of a recognised inspection organisation, an international review board and an external research team. According to ELECTRABEL, the outage is foreseen to last at least until November 2015, leaving 2 gigawatts (GW) of Belgian nuclear generating capacity offline.

Furthermore, on 5 August 2014, the Doel 4 reactor automatically shut down following a steam turbine oil leak in the non-nuclear part of the facility. Work to replace the reactor's turbine took almost five months and cost some EUR 30 million. Doel 4 was restarted on 19 December 2014.

As mentioned in previous reports, the Belgian government approved the near-surface facility for low- and intermediate-level short-lived waste at the municipality of Dessel. The Belgian National Agency for Radioactive Waste and Irradiated Fissile Materials (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 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 (R&D) activities, design improvements and the presentation of the safety results. The safety case was adapted taking into account the recommendations and 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 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.

In 2011, NIRAS/ONDRAF submitted to the government a file on the long-term management of medium, high-level and long-lived wastes after a long period of preparation that included several hearings, consultation in a citizen forum, a strategic environmental impact assessment and broad public consultation. The purpose of the file is to obtain a decision-in-principle on the deep geological disposal of those waste types in poorly indurated clay (Boom or Ypresian clay). The government is currently reviewing this waste plan.

During 2014, 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.

The Belgian Reactor 2 (BR2) of the SCK•CEN at Mol and the target processing facility of the National Institute for Radioelements (IRE) at Fleurus have continued to operate normally, contributing to maintaining a reliable supply. After the positive decision by the Belgian government in March 2010 on the MYRRHA multipurpose fast spectrum irradiation facility – able to operate in the subcritical accelerator-driven system (ADS) configuration and the critical mode – and the approval of the financing for the first period (2010-2014), efforts have since continued towards the realisation of the project, including developing:

At present, Belgium and SCK•CEN are working towards setting up an international consortium to ensure additional financing for the project. The preliminary works for the refurbishment of the material testing reactor BR2 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 allowing to irradiate GenIV/MYRRHA candidate materials in representative conditions.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2015

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Last reviewed: 21 October 2015