Engie agrees to extension of Belgian reactors

5 December 2023

French power group Engie and the Belgian federal government have finalised an agreement on the extension of unit 4 at the Doel NPP and unit 3 at the Tihange NPP, Doel 4 and Tihange 3, Belgian energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten said on social media platform X. “The deal with Engie has been completed. We have extended the two nuclear power plants that could be extended,” she said. Political discussions will start immediately “The following week, the various legal texts would be approved by the government and sent to the Council of State, so that we are completely on schedule for parliament,” she noted.

The texts will require approval from the entire government and Belgium's supreme administrative court before being sent to parliament and the European Union for final approval. She told Belgian broadcaster VRT that she hoped to complete the legislative process before elections in June.

A spokesperson for Engie told Reuters that the texts were “practically finalised” and now needed to go through the usual political process before a final, definitive signature on the deal was reached.

In July, Engie and the Belgian federal government signed an intermediate agreement defining the terms for extending the operation of Doel 4 and Tihange 3. The agreement aimed to ensure a balanced distribution of risks between the two parties and will also remove uncertainties about future changes in provisions related to the treatment of nuclear waste.

Belgium has seven nuclear power reactors – three at Tihange near Liege and four at Doel near Antwerp. All seven units are pressurised water reactors operated by Electrabel, part of Engie. Apart from Doel 1&2, which are 430 MWe plants, the others have a capacity of approximately 1000 MWe. In March, Belgium's Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) ruled out extension of the three oldest nuclear plants – Doel 1&2 and Tihange 1. Instead FANC advises depending on Doel 4 and Tihange 3 to avoid power shortages.

Tihange 2 was shut down in January, and Doel 1&2 are due to be disconnected from the grid by 2025 in line with the 2003 nuclear phase-out law. Tihange 2 was the second reactor to close under the phase-out law after Doel 3 closed in September 2022. In January, Engie-Electrabel reluctantly agreed to extend the operating lives of Doel 4 and Tihange 3 by 10 years from 2026 in face of the current energy crisis.

Image: Tihange nuclear power plant

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