Half of all vats of nuclear waste expected to leak

An official at Doel nuclear power station has told a hearing organised by Beveren town council that the problem of the leaky vats of nuclear waste at Doel and Dessel is probably bigger than initially thought. Half the 9,770 vats of low nuclear waste are expected to show gel formation.

Several months ago a suspicious-looking gel was found to be leaking from several dozen vats stored at the Belgoprocess plant in Dessel. A chemical reaction in the vats that contain a mixture of nuclear waste and concrete is the cause. The gel is seeping out of the vats under the rim of the lid. When it comes into contact with the air it dries up.

The official was unable to provide definitive figures because the matter is still being followed up but Wim Van Rompay expects half of all vats eventually to show the seepage. The gel is being formed as a result of an alkali-silica chemical reaction following the use of gravel.

A spokesman for the electricity generator Electrabel refused to be drawn on the numbers as the investigation is ongoing.

Doel nuclear power plant expects to obtain a new licence for the nuclear waste packaging process within two years. Waste is being stored in large reservoirs for the time being. The permanent storage of the vats was supposed to start in 2019, but a solution for the gel seepage will have to be found before then.