January 31, 2023

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The price of one billion euros and it has been going on for 19 years: this is how the decommissioning of the Doel 3 nuclear reactor works

The price of one billion euros and it has been going on for 19 years: this is how the decommissioning of the Doel 3 nuclear reactor works

The Doel 3 nuclear reactor will produce electricity for the last time Friday evening, 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. Today / Friday, the 1,006 MW power plant was shut down. 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. Cracks were discovered in 2012 in the steel walls of the reactor vessels at Doel 3 and Tihange 2. This has earned both manufacturers the nickname “crack mills”. 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).

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19 more years of work

At about 9 p.m., the reactor will be disconnected from the power grid forever. This does not mean abandoning offices and workshops. “We’ve run the plant for forty years, but we’ve really only gotten to two-thirds. There is still work to be done on Doel 3 for 17 to 19 years,” says Peter Moens, manager of the Doel Nuclear Power Plant.

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 internal parts of the reactor. A process that would easily take another 10 to 12 years, followed by a conventional demolition of the rest of the buildings.

1 billion euros

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 is expected to decommission 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.