Belgium's ageing nuclear plants worry neighbours

January 17, 2016 by Lachlan Carmichael
People in the Dutch town of Nieuw-Namen are part of a groundswell of concern in the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg over the
People in the Dutch town of Nieuw-Namen are part of a groundswell of concern in the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg over the safety of Belgium's seven ageing reactors at Doel, pictured, and at Tihange

As the two cooling towers at Belgium's Doel nuclear power belch thick white steam into a wintry sky, people over the border in the Dutch town of Nieuw-Namen are on edge.

They are part of a groundswell of concern in the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg over the safety of Belgium's seven ageing reactors at Doel and at Tihange, further to the south and east.

"I'm happy Holland, Germany and Luxembourg are reacting because they (officials) don't listen to you and me," butcher Filip van Vlierberge told AFP at his shop in Nieuw-Namen, where people can see the Doel plant.

Benedicte, one of his customers, nodded in agreement.

Van Vlierberge said he was particularly uneasy with the Belgian government's decision in December to extend the lives of 40-year-old reactors Doel 1 and Doel 2 until 2025 under a deal to preserve jobs and invest in the transition to cleaner energy.

"I'm concerned they are too old," he said.

Belgium's creaking nuclear plants have been causing safety concerns with its neighbours for some time now after a series of problems ranging from leaks to cracks and an unsolved sabotage incident.

Luxembourg's sustainable development minister Camille Gira is due in Belgium on Monday to raise his concerns.

Belgian operator Electrabel said in December it had restarted a reactor at its Tihange plant, just days after being forced to sh
Belgian operator Electrabel said in December it had restarted a reactor at its Tihange plant, just days after being forced to shut it down following a fire in the electricity supply system

Then Dutch Environment and Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz will visit Doel with Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon for a joint inspection on Wednesday.

Unsolved sabotage

Doel 1, the country's oldest reactor, was originally shuttered in February 2015 under a law calling for the country's gradual phaseout of nuclear power, but the government then restarted it under the extension deal.

But the plant, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) as the crow flies from the major port city of Antwerp, had to be closed three days later due to a generator problem. It has now restarted a second time.

Meanwhile Belgian operator Electrabel said in December it had restarted a reactor at its Tihange plant, just days after being forced to shut it down following a fire in the electricity supply system.

Tiny cracks discovered in 2012 in the reactor pressure vessels of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 caused lengthy closures of those two reactors. They were both restarted at the end of last year, one having to close quickly again, for a few days, after a water leak.

And the Doel 4 reactor was also shut down urgently in August 2014 after a leak in the turbine hall, caused by tampering, gushed out 65,000 litres of oil lubricant.

Belgian prosecutors told AFP the investigation into who was responsible is continuing, and they do not rule out terrorism or an "act of vengeance".

In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, the world's worst nuclear disaster
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in Ukraine 25 years earlier

Peter, a Dutch docker returning from work in Antwerp, was especially worried about the unsolved sabotage case.

"I don't understand how such things can happen," Peter told AFP in Nieuw-Namen, adding that "people are a little afraid" over the range of reactor problems.

Germany's environment minister Barbara Hendricks in the past week sent a set of safety questions, including on the cracks, to the Belgian nuclear watchdog AFCN, which maintains all reactors are safe.

Both Electrabel and AFCN said the recent problems have only been in the non-nuclear parts of the reactor and there is no danger from the nuclear cores despite the microcracks.

"We resumed service following an audit from a US research firm, an international firm that guaranteed the structural integrity of the vessels," Electrabel spokeswoman Florence Coppenolle told AFP when asked about the cracks.

Fukushima, Chernobyl ghosts

But Eloi Glorieux, Greenpeace's nuclear campaigner for Belgium, insists the microcracks in the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 pressure vessels are cause for concern because they are "one of the most vulnerable parts" of the plant.

"If the reactor pressure (vessel) fails, then we have a Chernobyl and a Fukushima-type accident," he warned.

In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in Ukraine 25 years earlier.

It was Fukushima that persuaded Germany to phase out its own nuclear plants.

Glorieux warned that any catastrophe in Belgium would be far worse than in Fukushima or Chernobyl, because its plants are near such densely populated areas.

Tihange is 20 kilometres from the Belgian city of Liege, 40 kilometres from the Dutch city of Maastricht and 60 kilometres from the Germany city of Aachen.

The authorities in Maastricht and Aachen have hired lawyers to consider possible legal action against Belgium to ensure plant safety, or even make them close down.

Electrabel's Coppenolle said the criticism of Belgium was misdirected as the Dutch have extended by 20 years the lifespan of their reactor on the Belgian border until 2033 while nine German reactors will run until 2022.

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39 comments

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gkam
2 / 5 (8) Jan 17, 2016
Cracks? In the pressurized Reactor Vessel itself?

Stay tuned, . . .
rolf_dupont_hansen
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
You call your self phys.org. Cant you just be objective instead of posting such a article only build on primitive emotions like irrational fear. Its not like there are any danger to actually back up that fear, from the details described in the article.
antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2016
The sabotage angle got me thinking. In light of things like Germanwings incident (where the pilot was suffering from depression but managed to evade medical diagnosis and revocation of his flight license and then crashed the plane): Could something similar not happen at a nuclear powerplant?

It's important to keep would-be saboteurs out, but can we guarantee that someone from the inside doesn't go bonkers? How easy would it be for someone in the right position to disable a safety measure and cause a meltdown?
rolf_dupont_hansen
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
The sabotage angle got me thinking. In light of things like Germanwings incident (where the pilot was suffering from depression but managed to evade medical diagnosis and revocation of his flight license and then crashed the plane): Could something similar not happen at a nuclear powerplant?

It's important to keep would-be saboteurs out, but can we guarantee that someone from the inside doesn't go bonkers? How easy would it be for someone in the right position to disable a safety measure and cause a meltdown?


Oh yes the sabotage event is the most concerning about this. But we must understand that we will not be informed about that before the case is investigated and there is some sure conclusions.

By the way it should have been filmed by cameras!?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2016
By the way it should have been filmed by cameras!?

Depends on what kind of sabotage we're talking about. If it was caused by software manipulation then cameras won't do you any good.

In ayn case powerplants are also pretty rambling structures. I'm sure that in the more 'mechanical' parts of it there are plenty of spaces where cameras aren't capturing everything.
WillieWard
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2016
It was Fukushima that persuaded Germany to phase out its own nuclear plants.
No one has been killed by the radiation; coal kills far more than nuclear, and Germany is burning a lot of coal to compensate wind/solar intermittency; thereby solar/wind is indirectly killing much more than Chernobyl and Fukushima.
http://judithcurr...misstep/
http://anglesonen...om/?p=63
http://www.nytime...isk.html
http://thoriummsr...7_23.jpg
http://nuclear-ec...8100.jpg
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2016
It was Fukushima that persuaded Germany to phase out its own nuclear plants.

It's a bit more complicated than that. Germany had already signed it into law to stop using nuclear power in 2000 (well before Fukushima). There's always been a strong anti-nuclear movement over here (well, more of a pro-environment movement, as there are a lot more issues at the heart of that movement than just nuclear)

Shortly before the Fukushima desaster the conservatives/company shills (Merkel et al) got back in power and overturned that law (to great protests from the population). Of course once Fukushima happened there was no way they could appease their corporate masters AND remain in power. So they had re-reverse that decision.

Nuclear power in germany is dead as...dead.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2016
Germany had already signed it into law to stop using nuclear power in 2000 (well before Fukushima).
Germany is an example of when you are ideologically/irrationally against nuclear, in favor of renewables, in fact you are favorable to fossil fuels; aside favorable to ruination of natural landscapes, disturbance of wildlife's habitats, birds and bats' massacres in large-scale.
"Between 2011 and 2014 Germany burned more coal, an additional 9.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent."
https://www.bp.co...port.pdf
"The story seems to reinforce the fact that every time you vote against nuclear power you are voting in favor of fossil fuels, and this is true even in a country aggressively committed to renewables."
http://blogs.scie...dy-bear/

Lord_jag
4 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2016
My solar panels and my neighbors and his neighbor and and and... could all be sabotaged.

Sure we would be out of power but there wouldn't be a 100 mile radius that is unlivable for 100 years.

Solar is cheaper and safer than nuclear. Once we get to the sweet spot of 40% of our use coming from solar (cause they don't work at night and we use more during the day) THEN we can look at ways to store it for use overnight.

BTW solar isn't intermittent. The sun comes up pretty much EVERY DAY.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2016
The sun comes up pretty much EVERY DAY.
clouds floating in the sky, cloudy day/winter, no problem, more fossil fuels.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
Let's start a contest to see who can predict the next nuclear disaster. From where will it hit us? The really old and worn-out Mark I - Mark III BWRs? A poorly-maintained monster in China? The old Soviet Union, with its massive and old nuke plants, run by commissars and bureaucratic hacks? Japan, with many sitting way to close to earthquake faults and volcanoes?

The real danger is it may be one at Indian Point, which can take out New York City.

The winner gets a weekend with Willie.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2016
Let's start a contest to see who can predict the next nuclear disaster.
Pray for it with all your faith, gskam; because Fukushima was not a disaster after all, no one was killed by radiation, just one questionable case of leukemia while there are several cases of leukemia/cancer linked to renewable and fossil fuel, which ironically serves as the backup for renewable.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
For those of you in New York, look up "Chernobyl children", and check out the pictures of the results of nuclear power. You will not be able to look at them all.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
For comparison, look up the Children of Altamont for the news of what happens when we use wind turbines.

Oh, . . . there aren't any drawbacks, . . .
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2016
look up "Chernobyl children"
"anti-nuclear campaigners have been racking up the figures for deaths and diseases caused by the Chernobyl disaster, and parading deformed babies like a medieval circus. They now claim 985,000 people have been killed by Chernobyl, and that it will continue to slaughter people for generations to come. These claims are false."
"..Nineteen others died later, but generally not from diseases associated with radiation."
"The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all"
http://www.thegua...ed-world

"This toxic lake poisons Chinese farmers, their children and their land. It is what's left behind after making the magnets for Britain's latest wind turbines..."
http://www.dailym...ale.html
wind/solar kills indirectly much more children than nuclear.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
Buy power from nukes and you will not be so eager for them. The wholesale price of power from Vogtle is gotten to 13cents/kWh, as opposed to about three cents for wind and solar PV.

Then, you have to pay all those engineers and safety folk to make sure it does not kill us. Most folk do not know most of the nuclear plant is there to keep it from killing us.

Then, we will have to find a way to store the very nasty stuff nukes produce. So far, we have FAILED to do so.
Vietvet
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 18, 2016
"A survey computed that of some 300,000 evacuees, approximately 1,600 deaths related to the evacuation conditions, such as living in temporary housing and hospital closures that had occurred as of August 2013, a number comparable to the 1,599 deaths directly caused by the earthquake and tsunami in the Prefecture. The exact causes of these evacuation related deaths were not specified, because according to the municipalities, that would hinder relatives applying for compensation."
https://en.wikipe..._note-19

"The prefectural government's annual survey reveals 99,991 people remain away from their homes"
http://www.hirosh...tes.html

Willie thinks losing your house and income whether it be job, a farm, a business, or your livelihood as a fisherman and crammed into temporary housing for years isn't a disaster.

Willie has no shame.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2016
1,600 deaths related to the evacuation conditions
Sensationalist mass media and unethical fear-mongers have induced thousands deaths; they provoke more deaths (suicides, anxiety/heart-attacks, abortions) than radiation through misinformation and irrational panic.
"the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant is unlikely to kill a single person"
http://www.thegua...ma-risks
http://www.indepe...096.html
https://en.wikipe...bortions
http://www.thenat...r-safety
Vietvet
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2016
From Willies link:
"Professor Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that the Lancet series showed that "the psychological and social consequences of nuclear accidents are more profound, long-lasting, divisive and difficult to manage than the more direct consequences of radiation leaks."
http://www.indepe...096.html
And Willie doesn't think Fukushima was a disaster.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2016
doesn't think Fukushima was a disaster.
Psychological disaster, not real, as no one has died directly from effects of radiation exposure. People were killed in a straight way by the earthquake and tsunami, and indirectly induced by scaremongers.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 18, 2016
I can't see Willie's posts, but I'll bet he is not writing them from Fukushima or Chernobyl. I, however, am fairly close to Altamont and the wind turbines, with no fear of meltdown or radioactive contamination.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 19, 2016
wind turbines, with no fear of meltdown or radioactive contamination.
"one ton of rare earth minerals produces about one ton of radioactive waste"
"wind industry may well have created more radioactive waste last year than our entire nuclear industry"
http://institutef...inerals/
http://www.bbc.co...on-earth
http://finance.to...age/full
http://www.mother...y-secret
greenonions
4 / 5 (4) Jan 23, 2016
Willie
Psychological disaster, not real,


$105 billion dollar clean up - which
does not include costs for the final disposal of radioactive substances, compensation and plant decommissioning.
- https://www.rt.co...s-study/

105 towns, and villages have to be decontaminated - that will take decades to complete, and they have no where to put all the radio active clean up waste.
http://www.latime...ory.html

And Willie says there was not a REAL disaster. I wonder what a REAL disaster looks like. Boy you are a liar Willie.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2016
have to be decontaminated
If it were applied the same set of standards, the whole planet should be decontaminated, because even before atomic age it already was naturally radioactive, including wind/solar farms. Fukushima's radioactivity is below of some natural places on Earth.
http://resources....ces.html
http://webecoist....-places/
http://en.wikiped...adiation
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2016
"US nuclear power reactors operated at record 91.9% capacity in 2015" while solar in Germany in 2014 less than 11%.
http://www.platts...21796809
"New York includes nuclear in clean energy portfolio"
http://www.world-...167.html
Nuclear power is admittedly carbon-free, safe and ecologically friendly.
greenonions
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 23, 2016
Fukushima's radioactivity is below of some natural places on Earth.
So they evacuated all of those people for no reason? Look how you change the subject Willie. Contrary to your lies - there was a disaster - a real disaster - and it will cost $105 billion dollars to clean it up. The tax payers of Japan will be on the hook for that money. You are such an idiot.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 23, 2016
Fukushima's radioactivity is below of some natural places on Earth.
So they evacuated all of those people for no reason?
"The fact of the matter is that most of the area around Fukushima IS perfectly safe. They've cordoned off areas as uninhabitable with a limit of 20 mSv/a that is based on absolutely nothing."
"In accordance with current knowledge of radiation health risks, the Health Physics Society recommends against quantitative estimation of health risks below an individual dose of 50 millisievert (mSv) in one year or a lifetime dose of 100 mSv above that received from natural sources. (...)
There is substantial and convincing scientific evidence for health risks following high-dose exposures. However, below 50–100 mSv (which includes occupational and environmental exposures), risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are nonexistent."
http://hps.org/do...10-2.pdf
greenonions
4 / 5 (4) Jan 23, 2016
Keep changing the subject Willie. The fact is that Fukushima was a real disaster. $105 billion of clean up constitutes a disaster. As does the evacuation of 80,000 people. Of course you know better than all of the scientists who were brought in to help the people of Japan figure out how to respond to this disaster. Silly people spending all that money when they did not need to. You are such and idiot.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 23, 2016
This is how you deal with billboards: "Comment posted by a person you have ignored"

It is the only way willie makes sense.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 23, 2016
was a real disaster
Political disaster, not really a technical disaster, no one has died from radiation; radiation level is lower than in some natural places; but sensationalist mass media, fear-mongers, vested economic interests are always on duty.
greenonions
4 / 5 (4) Jan 23, 2016
Keep lying Willie. $105 billion clean up - 80,000 people evacuated, 105 towns and villages needing decontamination - that is a disaster. Not a pretend disaster, or an imaginary disaster - but a REAL disaster. Maybe you should take a trip to Japan - go talk to some of those folks who had to leave their homes. Go tell them that this was just a pretend disaster. Idiot.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2016
towns and villages needing decontamination - that is a disaster.
Same set of standards should be applied to renewable.
"Champions of a low-carbon future have yet to wake up to the environmental price Chinese workers and villagers are paying."
http://www.pbs.or...a_12-14/
http://www.dailym...ale.html
"Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages"
"toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium .. cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukaemia."
http://www.thegua...ollution
"villagers .. severe skin and respiratory diseases .. cancer rates rocketed."
"confirmed there were unusually high rates of cancer"
http://canadafree...ve-waste

greenonions
5 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2016
Same set of standards should be applied to renewable.
I don't recall the last time there was a disaster of that scale around a solar panel plant Willie. But the point is you are a liar. Fukushima was a disaster - and you assert that it was not. This does not mean we should not use nukes - there were lessons learned - and as you point out - every energy source has it's negatives. I will take solar panels over coal any day. The point is that we do not make progress by telling lies. We make progress by understanding things.
greenonions
5 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2016
Same set of standards should be applied to renewable.


And nuclear too - right Willie? - or do you just pick on renewables.

http://www.thegua...politics
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2016
Psychological disaster, not real, as no one has died directly from effects of radiation exposure. People were killed in a straight way by the earthquake and tsunami, and indirectly induced by scaremongers.
"Greatest Impact Of Nuclear Disasters Is Psychological, Not Physical, Studies Find"
http://www.techti...inds.htm
"Psychological impact of nuclear disasters like Fukushima more damaging than the risk from radiation, experts say"
"Those living in the regions affected by nuclear accidents are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress and depression or to feel stigmatised – problems often exacerbated by overblown estimations of the ongoing radiation risk"
http://www.indepe...096.html
greenonions
4 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2016
Greatest Impact Of Nuclear Disasters Is Psychological, Not Physical, Studies Find


But you see the word 'greatest' right Willie? Which means that Fukushima WAS a disaster - and that disaster had both psychological, and physical affects. Your article is great support for the assertion that Fukushima was a very profound disaster - counter to your lies.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2016
We do not need the disgusting radioactive turkeys that are nuclear plants. They can take the rest of their billions of dollars and find ways to undo the damage they have caused, and find a way to safely store the terrible waste they created.

http://phys.org/n...rgy.html
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2016
was a very profound disaster
A disaster that no one has died directly from the disaster, a profound psychological disaster induced by sensationalist mass media and unethical scaremongers.
greenonions
5 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2016
A disaster that no one has died directly from the disaster
But none the less a disaster - that is costing billions to clean up.
unethical scaremongers.
Lying is unethical too Willie.

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