"Nuclear energy no longer acceptable" says nuclear chief

The departing head of Belgium's nuclear watchdog Willy De Roovere has courted controversy by making a remarkable pronouncement as he prepares to leave the industry. Mr De Roovere says that he does not think that the risks linked to nuclear energy are acceptable today.

Willy De Roovere worked for Electrabel, Belgium's main energy generator for many years before he went on to head the FANC, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, the nuclear industry's watchdog. He leaves the FANC at the end of the year.

2012 has been an important year for the nuclear industry both at home and abroad. Minute cracks were uncovered in the nuclear reactors at Doel and Tihange and two reactors were taken out of service. In January the FANC is expected to advise the government that the reactors that have stood idle for over six months can be restarted.

Against the backdrop of the Fukushima disaster in Japan Mr De Roovere makes a number of remarkable pronouncement for a man who has spent most of his working life in the nuclear sector: "We have to live with the fact that there is always some risk attached to nuclear energy. We should also ask ourselves whether this risk is acceptable for our society. I believe today that it is no longer acceptable."

"When we see the risk of nuclear energy, then I would prefer other forms of energy, but the issue must be debated: if we drop nuclear and China does not, then of course this will have an economic impact."

Mr De Roovere believes that this is a consideration that needs to be thought through.