February 8, 2023

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After forty years, the plug will be pulled tomorrow Doel 3 |  Instagram news VTM

After forty years, the plug will be pulled tomorrow Doel 3 | Instagram news VTM

Tomorrow evening, the Doel 3 nuclear reactor will produce electricity for the last time, after a career spanning forty years. Then begins a process of closing and dismantling that lasted for years. Price: about 1 billion euros.

The nuclear reactor in the Polish village of Doyle on the banks of the Scheldt began operating in 1982. Tomorrow the 1,006 megawatt plant will finally be completed. This makes Doel 3 the first nuclear power plant in our country to be retired as part of the nuclear phase-out.

During those forty years, the power plant was unexpectedly shut down for three years. In 2012, cracks were discovered in the steel walls of the reactor vessels at Doel 3 and Tihange 2. These plants have earned the nickname “crack plants”. In fact, it concerns the hydrogen flakes in the steel. Doel 3 was not allowed to restart until 2015, after extensive research and a green light from the International Atomic Energy Agency (FANC).

Tomorrow at about 9 pm, the reactor will be disconnected from the power grid forever. This does not mean that offices and workshops will be abandoned. “We’ve run the power plant for forty years, but in fact we’re only two-thirds of it there,” says Peter Moens, Doyle Nuclear Power Plant Manager.

Five-year moratorium

Several days after the reactor is shut down, all cables are disconnected from the reactor, the reactor cover is unscrewed and the reactor opens. This begins with the five-year hiatus phase. 157 fuel components – fuel – are lifted from the reactor and placed in cooling docks, where they have to be cooled under water for 3 to 5 years. The nuclear fuel is then sent to special containers, which are stored at the Doel site pending final underground storage. The power plant will also be purged of all radioactive particles for the first few years. This is done by chemical cleaning of the tubes.

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In just five years, the final dismantling of the reactor and the disinfection of the remaining buildings will begin. This includes cutting the reactor’s internals, among other things. A process that would easily take another 10 to 12 years, followed by a conventional demolition of the rest of the buildings.

demolish and dismantle

The demolition and dismantling of Doel 3 carries a price tag of around 1 billion euros, resulting from nuclear provisions put in place by operator Engie Electrabel. A total of 6.3 billion euros has been allocated for the decommissioning of all seven reactors at Doel and Tihange.

After the complete dismantling of all reactors at Doyle, in the end, only a depot will remain, where nuclear fuel will be stored pending final underground storage. Inge Elektrabel assumes that these buildings will be there for another eighty years, that is, until 2100.

Director Moines says saying goodbye to Reactor 3 on Friday won’t be easy. “We will keep calm. But it does stir something up in the people. We are one big family. The staff has already gone through a lot: the nuclear flight, the planned shutdown, and then again messages about the postponement. But we are going to calm down and support each other.”

Subsequently, this will be followed by a Doel 3 “homage” to workers at the nuclear power plant.

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