Belgian nuclear plants enter outage early due to RPV concerns

26 March 2014

Belgian utility Electrabel has announced that it has shut down Doel 3 and Tihange 2 as a precautionary measure following results of material testing on their reactor pressure vessels (RPVs). The reactors were due to enter planned maintenance outages in April and May, respectively.

In 2012, both reactor pressure vessels were found to contain hydrogen flakes formed during the forging process. They were cleared for restart in May 2013 after extensive studies showed that the flakes are stable and do not affect the vessels' structural integrity or their load-bearing capacity.

In the meantime, Electrabel agreed to continue to carry out material testing. Electrabel said that one particular mechanical strength test of a sample that underwent accelerated radiation at Belgium's Mol research reactor "did not deliver results in line with experts' expectations."

Six-week maintenance outages have been planned for Doel 3 on 26 April, and Tihange 2 on 31 May. Electrabel said that because material testing has to be carried out before the maintenance outages, it will shut down the reactors until then. It said that test results were due 'from June 15th'.

Photo: Doel 3 reactor pressure vessel prior to installation (Credit: Cockerill)

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