Unit 2 at Belgium’s Doel NPP was shut down manually during the night of 14-15 July, after Engie Electrabel employees noticed a rapid increase in hydrogen consumption in the alternator, indicating a leak. It was therefore decided to shut down the reactor as a preventive measure, which immediately reduces any risks. The situation is under control, but the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) is monitoring this incident together with Electrabel, the Belgian subsidiary of French energy company Engie. The cause of the leak is now being investigated, FANC said. The reactor can only be restarted when the leak has been closed.
"Such a sudden increase in consumption indicates that there is a leak somewhere in the housing," says Nele Scheerlinck, Electrabel's spokeswoman. “We are now trying to detect this and the power station has been shut down as a precaution. It is a problem that is not specific to a nuclear power plant, but that can also occur in a gas power plant, for example.”
A hydrogen leak in the alternator is not specifically linked to the operation of a nuclear power plant, it can also occur in other types of power plants. However, very strict standards apply in the nuclear sector, which means that action is taken very quickly in the event of a possible risk. The alternator is located in the non-nuclear part of the nuclear power plant and is cooled with hydrogen.
Electrabel said it had also increased surveillance at the Tihange NPP on the Meuse river, after the latter appeared ready to overflow its banks. "The risk of flooding around the Tihange NPP remains under control and there is no immediate danger to the nuclear power plant. The Engie Electrabel operator has preventively increased its level of vigilance", FANC tweeted. Record rainfall had collapsed several homes in Belgium and caused catastrophic flooding in neighbouring Germany.