The small western-European country of Belgium currently has two commercial nuclear sites and a total of seven reactors. Nuclear energy accounts for over half of the nation's power consumption, a total of about 45 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Although typically quite fractured, Belgium's political parties have reached a consensus on nuclear power. The oldest reactors are to be shut down by 2015 and all nuclear reactors at both sites will be shut down by 2025. The plan is conditional on Belgium finding enough energy from alternative sources to prevent power shortages.
The two Belgian nuclear sites are located at opposite ends of the country. Doel Nuclear Power Station is on the northwest side near the port of Antwerp. The Tihange Nuclear Power Station is to the southwest along the Meuse River. Plans to have the plants shutdown were drawn up way back in 2003. The plan was kicked into action as public hostility grew towards nuclear energy following Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima. It also has followed Germany's announcement that it would phase out nuclear power by 2022.
However, because nuclear accounts for such a large portion of Belgium's overall energy consumption, doing away with it requires planning and investments in alternative energy sources. According to environmental and energy analyst at Belgium's Itinera thinktank, Johan Albrecht, citing Belgian energy regulator CREG, the nation will not be ready by 2015 to replace lost capacity.
Albrecht also stated that economic developments may force policy makers to alter the plan in order for it to succeed. "Should we fall back into recession, industrial demand for electricity declines and you have a better margin to take capacity off the grid, if the economy performs well it's harder to reduce capacity."
One of the companies which owns one nuclear site, GDF Suez, saw its shares drop by 4% on Monday following the Sunday announcement. The other owner, Electrabel had refused to comment until it receives official confirmation.
Politicians are now deciding how much more the state will tax the nuclear companies moving forward. Socialist Party chief, Elio Di Rupo, has suggested raising their taxes from €215 million per year in 2009 to €1 billion per year.
By. David Gabel
Source: Environmental News Network