Belgium has provisionally approved the extension of the lifetime of its nuclear reactors Tihange 3 and Doel 4 in case they are needed to ensure security of supply. However, the final decision will depend on the proposal that the government will make before March 18 after analyzing a report on security of supply in the country.
Last December, the Belgian government confirmed that the nuclear power plants would maintain their closure schedule before 2025.
Belgium currently has seven nuclear reactors, three at Tihange, near Liège, and four at Doel, near Antwerp. All seven units are operated by Electrabel, part of France's Engie.
The Belgian CSN says in a 14-page report to the government that the move is possible in terms of nuclear safety, albeit with the necessary upgrades to the facilities, and calls for the government to make a clear decision in the first quarter of the year.
Both reactors would have to meet safety standards, which were tightened in 2020. These were intended to bring the older reactors and implement a number of upgrades ahead of a possible extension of operation in 2025.
The Belgian nuclear agency intends to accelerate the procedure and consult with Engie Electrabel within six months of the government's decision to determine what work needs to be done and within what timeframe.
The Belgian CSN indicates that an extension should cover a period of at least 10 years, in order to be able to draw up a comprehensive action plan to improve nuclear safety.
If the government decides to extend the operating period of Doel 4 and Tihange 3, the body will request the appointment of a coordinator to ensure the proper implementation of the plan. However, if it confirms nuclear abandonment in March, "it should be considered irreversible thereafter."
The nuclear phase-out plan will begin with the closure of one reactor on October 1, 2022. The decommissioning, which includes the removal of all radioactive material and the demolition of buildings, is to be completed by 2045.