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Friday, August 17, 2012

Belgium shuts two nuclear reactors amid safety concerns

Belgium’s nuclear regulator has questioned the safety of the Electrabel-operated Doel 3 reactor due to cracks in the pressure vessels that have already forced the shutdown of a similar unit at the Tihange nuclear plant.

Belgium has halted the 1,006-megawatt Doel 3 reactor until at least the end of August after the discovery of suspected cracks in the pressure vessel. But it is possible that the reactor could be shut down for good.

Willy De Roovere, who heads the FANC regulator agency, said it was always hard for a company to meet a requirement to prove a nuclear plant is safe.

He told a news conference that Electrabel, the Belgian unit of France’s GDF Suez, would have to show that "in a period of the remaining lifetime there is no single risk, there is no risk at all that cracks can go [on to produce leaks]."

A spokeswoman for Electrabel said, as quoted by Reuters: "Is it safe or not to continue the production of Doel 3? That's what we will have to prove to the FANC."

The vessel in question was built by now-defunct Dutch company Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, which also constructed the pressure vessel for another Belgian unit, Tihange 2, as well as parts for nuclear plants throughout Europe and in the Americas.

The Belgian agency BELGA reported that Tihange 2 was halted yesterday, as it has the same pressure vessel as Doel. Read More