Home Business Belgium will not phase out nuclear power in 2025

Belgium will not phase out nuclear power in 2025


It is the first European country to reconsider its decision to stop nuclear power. Belgium announced on Friday March 18 the extension of two of its seven reactors, Doel 4 (in Flanders) and Tihange 3 (in Wallonia), until 2035.

→ EXPLANATION. Belgium decides to shut down its nuclear power plants

Initially, the entire park, which belongs to Engie, was to be closed no later than the end of 2025, with the first stop occurring as early as next October. But the war in Ukraine got the better of the government’s commitment, confirmed last December, to abandon the civilian atom.

Replace nuclear with gas

This is an important reversal for the ecologists of the Groen party, members of the current ruling coalition. In 2003, during their first participation in a federal government, they had passed the law providing for the phase-out of nuclear power in 2015. In 2013, the authorities had however decided to postpone it to 2025, already highlighting the absence of alternative solutions to guarantee the country’s energy security.

In the government agreement signed in 2020, environmentalists, who were among the winners of the 2019 elections, pushed for the timetable to be respected, explaining that nuclear reactors had to be replaced by gas power plants, despite the increase in CO2 emissions that would have been generated. In 2021, the Belgian government had thus obtained the green light from the European Commission to subsidize operators building new gas capacities.

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Increase in investments in renewables

But this strategy seemed less and less tenable against a background of soaring gas prices, while nuclear energy provides 50% of the electricity produced in the kingdom, against 25% for gas. The 2020 coalition contract also included a clause explaining that in the event of a supply problem, the government could “take appropriate measures, such as adjusting the legal calendar for a capacity of up to 2 GW”, i.e. the capacity of Doel 4 and Tihange 3, which are the two most recent reactors.

In exchange for their agreement, the ecologists obtained “a boost” in renewable energies through “additional investments” in offshore wind, hydrogen, solar and sustainable mobility. VAT on photovoltaic panels, heat pumps and solar water heaters will thus be reduced from 21% to 6%.

Discussions with Engie

It now remains for the government to convince (or force) Engie to keep two reactors in operation, ten more years. Difficult discussions will start.

Because the group led by Catherine MacGregor now wants to get out of nuclear power and believes that the Belgian authorities have procrastinated too much on the subject. At the end of 2020, he estimated that it took at least five years of preparatory work to program the extension of a reactor and had decided to throw in the towel. Acting therefore the shutdown of its facilities in 2025, the group had even depreciated the value of its power plants by 2.9 billion euros in its accounts.

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→ READ. China, India, France: more and more nuclear reactors

Today, Engie is not very excited by the decision of the government of Alexander De Croo. “The decision to extend Tihange 3 and Doel 4 raises significant safety, regulatory and implementation constraints and presents a risk profile which, by its unpredictability and by its magnitude, exceeds the normal activity of an operator private”, the company said in a statement. According to her, the two reactors will even have to be closed in 2025 to reopen in 2027, once the work deemed necessary has been carried out.

On the Belgian side, the position of the French group is above all perceived as a desire to put itself in a position of strength to negotiate.

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