A recent report by Belgium’s the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB), entitled “Economische Vooruitzichten (Economic Outlook) 2021-2026, said Belgium’s planned nuclear phase-out would result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Chapter 2 of the 86-page report looks at the international context and prospects for Belgian economic growth, inflation, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Belgium currently has seven nuclear power reactors three at Tihange near Liege and four at Doel near Antwerp, all PWRs. Apart from Doel 1&2, which are 430 MWe plants, the others are all approximately 1000 MWe. Belgium has decided to phase out nuclear power by 2025.
With respect the electricity supply, the report says it is expected to evolve as follows:
- the share of NPPs will gradually decrease in line with the Nuclear phase-out law (2015): from just over 51% in 2021 (fully operational park) to 35% in 2023 (shutdown of Doel 3 in October 2022 and closure of Tihange 2 in February 2023), and to 0% in 2026 (gradual shutdown of Doel 1, Doel 4, Tihange 3, Tihange 1 and Doel 2 in the course of 2025);
- the reduced electricity production by NPPs will be partly compensated by gas-fired power plants. The contribution of natural gas to the electricity supply would therefore increase from 19% in 2021 to 28% in 2023. With the shutdown of all reactors at the end 2025, that share would reach 56% by 2026;
- net imports will also partially absorb the nuclear exit, contributing to the electricity supply of about 9% in 2026 (compared with zero in 2021 and 5% in 2023);
- the share of renewable energy in the electricity supply will increase sharply to 30 % by 2026, compared with 26% in 2021 and 27% in 2023.
As to greenhouse gas emissions, there was a 7.2% decrease in 2020 attributable to the decrease in the activity as a result of the health crisis. Total emissions will then systematically increase. “In 2023 and 2026 there will be a more pronounced increase in emissions due to a higher electricity production from gas-fired power stations as a result of the phased cessation of the nuclear power plants.” Nevertheless, total emissions in 2026 would be more than 17% below their 1990 levels. In 2019, energy-related emissions represented about three quarters of the total and these fell by almost 9% in 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis but will increase to 94.7 million tonnes CO2 equivalents in 2026, or 9% below the 1990 level.
The emissions from the energy-producing industries are largely determined by the electricity production of the thermal power stations. Their improved energy efficiency and the strong development of electricity production based on renewable energies have a downward impact on emissions. “Nevertheless, those in the projection period will increase due to increasing production from gas-fired power stations as a result of the phasing out of nuclear energy.”
Belgium’s nuclear phase-out plans became law in 2003 and were reaffirmed in 2015 and 2018. Belgium undertook to subsidise new electricity capacity – including gas-fired plants – to offset the nuclear phaseout. The government has not ruled out extended operation of Doel-4 and Tihange-3 (the newest NPPs) in the event of supply problems.