Brussels, Dec. 7. Belgium fears that closing its nuclear fleet in 2025, as initially planned, could cause electricity supply problems in the winter of 2025-2026 and is studying ways to extend the life of two of its seven atomic reactors by a few months.
This would involve a temporary extension ("fuel extension") of the Tihange 3 and Doel 4 reactors, saving fuel in the spring and reserving it for that critical winter when Belgium could have difficulties importing electricity from France, which has more than half of its atomic reactors shut down.
The atomic infrastructure generates half of the electricity consumed by Belgium and, in the event of a supply risk, the government had already envisaged after Russia's invasion of Ukraine the possibility of extending the two reactors in question (Tihange 3 and Doel 4) for ten years instead of shutting them down in 2025.
But to do so, which the Executive is negotiating with the companies which operate them, requires a series of studies and in-depth technical analyses with the plants shut down, so that in 2025 there would be no reactor in operation.
A council of ministers, competent in the matter, of the Executive of the liberal Alexander de Croo will analyze this Wednesday a new report on the difficulties of energy supply that the country could encounter in the coming years, prepared by the operator of the high voltage networks (Elia) and by the one in charge of gas flows (Fluxys).
According to leaks in local media such as Le Soir and L'Écho, this document indicates that there are no problems in the short term, but that there could be problems in the medium term due to the meager production of the nuclear fleet in neighboring France.
Belgium had until very recently seven nuclear reactors spread over two power plants, Tihange (southwest) and Doel (northeast) with an output of 2,900 and 3,000 megawatts electric (MWe), respectively, which in 2019 generated 48.8 % of the country's electricity.
The reactor called Doel 3 closed last September and Tihange 2 will close next February. The rest are scheduled for closure throughout 2025.
In addition to these two reactors, the two most recent reactors in the Belgian fleet (Tihange 3 and Doel 4), which, if they were to gain a decade of operating life, would not only be available again in the winter of 2026-2027, but also in the winter of 2026-2027.
In addition to a technical and legal problem, as the electricity companies that operate the plants believe that the current legal framework does not allow this small extension, there is also a political problem, as there are very different sensitivities within the government, supported by a coalition of seven parties where the energy portfolio is held by the environmentalist Tinne Van der Straeten.
At the same time, the possibility of building a new gas-fired power plant, whose capacity, a priori, would be far from covering the gaps left by the nuclear shutdown and the difficulties to import electricity, will also be analyzed. EFE