Nuclear reactors back in service before the winter is out?

Two of Belgium's nuclear reactions have been standing idle since the summer, but in a report for the government and the Belgian nuclear watchdog electricity generator Electrabel says that both Doel 3 in Flanders and Tihange 2 in Wallonia can be taken back into service forthwith.

The reactors were shut down after thousands of tiny tears were discovered in a valve linked to the reactor vessel.

"Tests on over 400 samples carried out at different labs show that the steel of the reactor vessels is in good condition and meets the necessary requirements" the report states.

Studies and calculations show that the integrity of the structure meets safety requirements.

The nuclear watchdog FANC now has the job of scrutinising the report and passing on its conclusions to the Belgian Government that will take the final decision. Electrabel that operates the two reactors is confident that the two reactors can be taken into service immediately.

The FANC is only expected to make its recommendation clear in January. Even after the all clear it could take several weeks before the fuel rods can be loaded into the reactor once again.

The two reactors provide 15% of Belgium's electricity needs. Their closure fuelled concern about possible outages this winter.