Belgium’s neighbours have expressed alarm at its plans to extend the life of 40-year-old nuclear reactors, seen by critics as dangerous.
Just across the border, the German city of Aachen and the Dutch city of Maastricht have announced they are considering taking legal action. They want to force Belgium to shut the reactors down.
Belgium has two nuclear plants at Doel, near the port of Antwerp, and at Tihange near Liege. They have a total of seven reactors, which produce around 60% of the country’s energy needs.
But several incidents in the past few years have cast doubt on their safety:
One of Doel’s four reactors, Doel 4, was hit by an unresolved case of sabotage
Another, Doel 3, was shut down for 21 months after the discovery of micro-cracks in the reactor’s pressure vessels
A few days after being restarted, Doel 3 was shut down again on New Year’s Eve after a water leak was found
At Tihange, a fire started in the electricity supply system on 27 December
Micro-cracks were also found in the pressure vessels of a Tihange reactor
In both cases at Tihange, operator Electrabel said an external audit had been done and the structural integrity was guaranteed.
But the neighbours are unimpressed. While neighbouring Germany looks to close down all its commercial nuclear reactors by 2022, Belgium appears to be taking the opposite course.