The Doel 3 nuclear plant in Belgium is to remain offline until at least the end of August, after inspections indicated the presence of potential cracks in the reactor pressure vessel.

The event, which has been classified as a level 1 (anomaly) occurrence on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), poses no danger to plant employees, the public, or the environment, the Belgian nuclear regulator said. (This classificaition could be changed when more information comes to light.)

Ultrasonic inspection of the RPV, conducted during the plant’s ten-yearly overhaul that began on 2 June, “yielded findings that require further analysis by internal and external experts,” operator Electrabel said in a statement.

These analyses are now underway, supervised by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC).

The 1056 MW pressurized water reactor will not be restarted until “all the results are in,” Electrabel said. This will not be before 31 August, at the earliest, according to FANC.

Meanwhile, FANC has confirmed that RPV inspections will be conducted at other Belgian nuclear plants: at Tihange 2 in September 2012 and Tihange 1 in 2013. The reactor pressure vessels at Doel 4 and Tihange 3 will also, eventually, undergo the same inspections, it said.

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