“Fuel stretching,” or lengthening the fuel cycle for nuclear power plants, is not possible within the current legal and regulatory framework for nuclear safety. Belgium’s nuclear power plant operator Inge Elektrabel responded Tuesday evening to plans circulating within the federal government to keep nuclear power plants open a little longer during the difficult winter of 2025-2026.
On Wednesday evening, the core cabinet of the federal government, supplemented by Energy Minister Teny van der Straeten (Green), will discuss the risk analysis prepared by Elia and Fluxes, the electricity and gas grid operators, regarding supplies in the coming winter. As the electricity supply in particular threatens to be a problem in the winter of 2025-2026, Van der Straeten is putting forward a ‘fuel extension’ for its Doel 4 and Tihange 3 power plants, Mediahuis and Le Soir newspapers wrote on Tuesday. ‘Echo, the government is also circulating the scenario of extending the oldest reactors Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 to a limited extent.
An additional margin of safety was included in the risk analysis, which assumes that four French nuclear power plants will be decommissioned during the winter of 2025-2026, instead of two. As a result, Belgium needs additional capacity this winter. The Van der Straeten cabinet chooses “fuel stretching” to avoid danger. This means that the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear reactors, which normally shut down in July and September 2025 for modernization, will run slightly less after the last refueling, so that there is still energy left over for the winter bridge, without extensive work having to be done first.
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Engie-Electrabel has reservations. Spokeswoman Nele Scheerlinck says a “fuel extension” route is not possible within the current legal and regulatory framework for nuclear safety. This framework is based on a ten-year operating license granted on the basis of an in-depth safety assessment. The license naturally expires with the planned shutdown of nuclear power plants in 2025. Allowing power plants to operate for longer than that license is not an easy option. “We don’t make any compromises on nuclear safety,” Scherlink says.
The spokeswoman confirmed that Engie Electrabel has not yet received the report from Elia and Fluxes, nor has it been informed of the various options circulating within the federal government to ensure energy supplies.
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