Federal Government should have commissioned environmental impact report before extending life of Doel reactors

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Belgium’s Federal Government should have commissioned an environmental impact report before taking the decision to extend the working life of the Doel 1 and Doel 2 nuclear reactors. The decision to keep the reactors open longer than had been originally planned was taken in June 2015. Prime Minister Charles Michel’s (Francophone liberal) took the decision without an environmental impact report first having been carried out. 

Two environmental organisation, the Flemish Bond Beter Leefmilieu and the Francophone Inter-Environment Wallonie took the case the Constitutional Court. In turn the Constitutional Court asked the European Court of Justice whether an Environmental Impact Report should have been carried out in this case.     

Like the Advocate-General in November last year the European Court of Justice has ruled that an Environmental Impact Report was necessary in this case. The court motivates its assertion by stating that prolonging the working live of the reactors brings with it considerable potential environmental impact “that is comparable to the risks there were when the reactors first entered service”. As the reactors are near to the Dutch borders a cross-border procedure should have been initiated.

The court ruled its ruling can be implemented retrospectively. Furthermore, a Belgian Judge can approve temporary measures (such as keeping the reactors open for longer) if “there is a real and serious risk” that electricity supply is threatened.      

However, this can only be done if there is no other alternative and can only been maintained as long as is absolutely necessary.