Belgian government to close nuclear power plants in Doel in 2015

Key ministers in the federal government have met to discuss the proposals made by the Secretary of State for Energy, Melchior Wathelet (Francophone Christian democrat). One of Belgium's three oldest nuclear reactors will have an extended lifespan, but those in Doel will close as planned, the government decided.

Some 10 years ago, the decision was made to close Belgium's three oldest nuclear power plants by 2015: two in Doel (near the port of Antwerp) and one in Tihange (near the city of Huy in Wallonia).

However, in recent months reports emerged about possible power blackouts if the three plants would be dismantled as planned. Mr Wathelet proposed a compromise, keeping Tihange I open for ten more years, and is now being followed by key ministers, who reached an agreement in principle.

Power supplier Electrabel operates the nuclear power plants and is making huge profits. However, where Tihange is concerned, Mr Wathelet suggests that Electrabel opens the market to other energy suppliers to increase competition on the Belgian energy market.

The proposal triggered different political reactions late yesterday. For some, it's not going far enough, for others, it's too little too late.

The greens versus the N-VA

The greens urge the federal government to carry out what was decided over ten years ago: the three plans should stop operating. They point to the very old infrastructure which involves potential risks, and are talking about "a EuroMillions for the nuclear sector" if Tihange I would stay open.

Other parties like the Flemish nationalists of N-VA point to the risks of power breaks, claiming there are not enough alternatives. Keeping only Tihange I open, is not enough, they say. Both the greens and the N-VA are on the opposition benches in Parliament.

Where the government coalition parties are concerned, the Flemish Christian democrats stress the fact that power supplies for the people should be guaranteed at all times. This goes more or less also for the Flemish liberals and socialists. However, the socialists wanted all the three nuclear plants closed, and say that consumers should now benefit from the fact that Tihange I will operate longer.