Seven nuclear reactors at Doel and Tihange will be shut down when they reach 40 years of age, if legislation agreed by Belgium's cabinet at the start of March is passed by the country's parliament.
Belgium's 5800MWe of nuclear generation will have to be replaced at the same time the country has to meet tough new targets on CO2 production. At the moment it is cheaper than other forms of generation and it enabled utility Electrabel to export 105TWh of electricity to other European customers in 2001 (see page 13).
Observers believe that renewables are likely to supply no more than 10% of Belgium's requirements by the time the reactors would close. The rest would probably be supplied by a massive increase in Belgium's gas-fired generation, which by some estimates would supply 85% of demand. This would make the country vulnerable to fluctuating gas prices and would give the country little choice in sourcing its gas. In the closure schedule, the oldest reactors, Doel 1 and 2, would be shut down in 2015, while the newest, Tihange 3, would be closed in 2025. The draft bill allows an exception to be made in the case of "force majeure" - a term that will still have to be defined in this context.