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Belgium to extend life of two nuclear reactors by 10 years

View of nuclear plant of Doel, as reactor Doel 3 is to be permanently shut down on Friday before being dismantled, in Doel, Belgium September 23, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Belgium has reached an agreement with French utility Engie to extend the life of two nuclear reactors by 10 years, the prime minister said on Monday, overturning a plan to exit nuclear power in 2025 as the war in Ukraine has changed energy strategy.

The Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors – the newest of Belgium’s seven reactors – were due to close for good in 2025, but will now restart in November 2026 after necessary work and will continue operating for 10 years.

“The extension of these two nuclear reactors is crucial to guarantee our energy security,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference after meeting cabinet members.

Belgium had planned to exit nuclear power entirely in 2025, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the government to rethink plans to rely more on natural gas.

Belgium’s electricity network operator has warned that Belgium would face a significant shortage in the winter of 2026 to 2027 without the nuclear extension.

Belgium’s six operating nuclear reactors have a combined capacity of about 5 gigawatt and generate about half of the country’s electricity, World Nuclear Association data show. One reactor, Doel 3, closed last year and the others had all been due to close in 2025.

Even after extending Doel 4 and Tihange 3 – which have combined capacity of two GW and entered service in 1985 – Belgium will still need to plug a potential power generation gap in 2025 to 2026.

De Croo said while there was an agreement in principle on the extension, not all details had been finalised.

He said the price of the reactors’ electricity would be based on a UK-style “Contract for Difference” regulated-asset-base scheme, details of which will be discussed with Engie in coming months.

Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten said a joint company in which Engie and the Belgian state would be equal shareholders will operate the reactors.

Engie (ENGIE.PA) said in a statement that “both parties confirm their objective to make reasonable endeavours to restart the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear units in November 2026”.

The two parties had already signed a “non-binding letter of intent” about the life extension in July 2022.

Talks will also focus on how to share responsibility between the Belgian state and Engie about nuclear waste management costs. An agreement has been reached for capping that cost Engie, De Croo and Engie said.

Source: Reuters