Germany has asked Belgium to take two nuclear reactors temporarily offline while questions about their safety are cleared up, an unusual diplomatic move that underscores German concerns about the plants.
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Wednesday that she asked Belgium this week to shut down its Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactors, after Germany’s Reactor Safety Commission advised that it could not confirm the reactors would be safe in the event of a hazardous incident.
The core tanks at the 33-year-old Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors were built by Dutch company Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, which has also built reactors in other countries.
The two reactors, both with about a gigawatt of capacity, were closed in 2012 and again in 2014 after a brief restart, after inspections unveiled tiny cracks in their core tanks.
But the Belgian regulator authorised a restart in November 2015 after finding that the cracks were hydrogen flakes trapped in the walls of the reactor tank and had no unacceptable impact on the safety.
Last week, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia said it would join a lawsuit brought by the Aachen city region against the Tihange 2 reactor, which is roughly 65 kilometres (about 40 miles) away from the west German city.
Deputy Environment Minister Jochen Flasbarth told reporters the decision to make the request had not been taken lightly and that they would give the Belgian government time to respond.
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