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Belgian Greens propose extending life of nuclear plants

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Tihange nuclear plant of Electrabel, the Belgian unit of French company Engie, former GDF Suez, in Tihange, Belgium, December 29, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

Belgium’s Green Energy Minister said on Monday that the country should keep an open mind regarding extending the life of its surviving nuclear power reactors, in a shift in opinion spurred by the situation in Ukraine.

The news: After months of debate, Belgium’s seven-party coalition government reached an agreement in December to close the country’s last nuclear power plant in 2025 if it did not result in energy shortages.

  • The Greens had demanded that a 2003 law mandating a nuclear phase-out by 2025 be followed, while the French-speaking liberals wanted to extend the life of the two newest reactors.
  • This is no longer the case.

What are they saying: “Plan A is ready and feasible, but reassessment is needed with Ukraine,” Tinne Van der Straeten wrote on Twitter.

  • “We also need to look objectively at problems and obstacles related to an extension. The last two reactors represent 3 per cent of our energy. We need a major breakthrough for 100 per cent of our energy,” she added.

What’s going on: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced Germany to reconsider its planned phase-out of nuclear and coal power plants in order to reduce dependency on Russian gas. Russia refers to its campaign, which began on February 24, as a “special military operation.”

  • Belgium, which has seven nuclear reactors, has not stated how it plans to replace the capacity of the reactors, however one possibility would be to build new gas-fired power facilities.
  • Engie, a French company, operates Belgium’s two newest nuclear facilities, which produce about half of the country’s electricity.
  • The government said it will make a decision in mid-March after receiving advice from Belgium’s electricity grid operator, Elia, on whether the nuclear phase-out would jeopardise the country’s energy supply.
  • On Oct. 1, 2022, one reactor will be shut down as part of the nuclear phase-out plan. By 2045, decommissioning will be complete, including the removal of radioactive materials and the demolition of buildings.
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