Belgium to sacrifice one nuclear reactor in vessel crack scare?

The Belgian nuclear watchdog FANC told the VRT that many more minute cracks have been discovered in the nuclear vessels of reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 than first thought. They can become a major problem; maybe one nuclear reactor will be sacrificed to allow more detailed and better research.

The problems inside the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 nuclear reactors are serious. The FANC reveals that the Doel 3 vessel has a total of 13,000 small cracks instead of 8,000. For Tihange 2 this turns out to be 3,000 instead of 2,000. "The numbers had to be adjusted because of better research methods, so we are not actually talking about new cracks," explains Jan Bens of the FANC.

The cracks are small, but hydrogen atoms could still escape from the water inside the vessel, find their way through the inner vessel wall via the cracks, and accumulate inside the vessel wall, experts explain. In the long run, the wall can burst because of the pressure, which would trigger a nuclear accident. Belgian experts point to the fact that similar vessels are being used in reactors across the world. "We alerted colleagues worldwide, but of course country is free to do what it wishes to do", says Jan Bens.

Belgian energy suppliers Electrabel are prepared to do more research into the problem hitting its Belgian reactors. "We are taking the warnings seriously." Electrabel would be prepared to close one reactor and sacrifice it to allow more detailed research. This has not been decided yet though, it's just an option. Closing one reactor on a permanent basis would put more pressure on energy supplies, but the fears that Belgium could be confronted with a black-out during winter, have proved wrong in the past months.