The Belgian Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill aimed at gradually phasing out the use of nuclear power in the country from 2015 onwards. The bill passed with a vote of 86-49, with five abstentions. It will now be passed to the Senate.

The bill, presented by prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, orders the shutting of reactors after 40 years of operation, and bans construction of new ones. If passed into law, the first reactors will be shut down by February 2015, and the last in 2025.

Francoise Vanthemsche, spokeswoman for Electrabel, which operates the plants, said: “We deplore this decision, because there is not a single reason, be it technical, economic or ecological, to close the plants ahead of time.” The move follows a recommendation made by the economic affairs committee of the Belgian parliament in November 2002.