Did Engie-Electrabel let economics take priority over safety?

The electricity production and supply company Engie-Electrabel has denied that issues will the condition of the concrete in its reactors at the Doel (East Flanders) and Tihange (Liège Province) nuclear power stations have not been followed up. An anonymous witness told the Francophone public broadcaster RTBF that the company had been aware of issues with the condition concrete in the reactors since the mid-1990’s, but had put off maintenance work for financial reasons.

However, Engie-Electrabel has said in a statement that it invests 200 million euro per annum in the maintenance of the reactors at Doel and Tihange.    

The anonymous witness that has worked for Engie-Electrabel for many years told RTBF that since Electrabel was taken over by the France group Suez in the late 1990’s “profit has been the number 1 priority” and “investment is put off until the last minute”.

However, speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ Engie-Electrabel’s Anne-Sophie Hugé denied that this is the case. “The issues relating to the concrete have been followed up from the outset. We have carried out repairs in the past where necessary and we were always able obtain the necessary permission to start the reactors up again".   

Engie-Electrabel also stresses that the necessary investments have been made to ensure safety. “We invest 200 million euro annually in the maintenance of the nuclear power stations.  

Ms Hugé denies that there is tension between Belgian staff at the power stations and the French owners of Engie-Electrabel about maintenance and safety policy at the two nuclear power stations.   

"One thing is certain, economics have never taken precedence over safety”.

Minister "Consequence of chronic under investment”

The Federal Engery Minister Marie-Christine Marghem (Francophone liberal, photo below) believes the testimony of the anonymous Engi-Electrabel worker. Ms Marghem wrote on Twitter “Disappointed to see the consequences of chronic underinvestment in certain strategic sectors such as the energy industry. And I thought that safety was a priority”.