Block 2 of the Belgian nuclear power plant Tihange is scheduled to be shut down this Tuesday evening. The reactor with an output of 1000 MW will then finally go out of service after 40 years. After the Doel 3 reactor went offline in September 2022, five nuclear power plant units are now still running at two locations in Belgium. All are pressurized water reactors.
Against the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Belgian government decided in March 2022 not to phase out nuclear power by 2025 as planned in 2003, but to extend the service lives of the two youngest reactors, Doel 4 and Tihange 3. However, the operator Engie had raised safety concerns. The final decision of the Belgian government followed three weeks ago. As with Doel 3, Tihange 2 has meanwhile been examined to extend its runtimes. Doel 1 is scheduled to shut down on February 15, 2025, Tihange 1 on October 1, 2025 and Doel 2 on December 1, 2025.
Cracks in the containment
Extending the lifespan of existing nuclear power plants should not stand in the way of the expansion of renewable energy, the Belgian government said on an earlier occasion. In case of overproduction, nuclear power plants could also be used to advance the hydrogen market in Belgium. The country is to become a hub for the import and transit of green hydrogen, including to Germany.
Tihange is around 70 km from Aachen. Many people in the region there had already stocked up on iodine tablets at the end of 2017 because of a possible nuclear emergency. In August 2018, Tihange 2 was shut down for maintenance. Inspectors had discovered dilapidated concrete surfaces in the reactor. It was only put back into operation in July 2019. In the previous years, fine cracks had been discovered in the reactor pressure vessel of the nuclear power plant. The then Federal Minister for the Environment, Svenja Schulze, informed the responsible Belgian minister in 2018 that she considered extending the service life of nuclear power plants to be the wrong approach.
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