Germany compromises on Belgian reactor fears

The #3 reactor at Doel is nearly 35 years old and safety fears have grown after hydrogen flakes were found in its pressure vessels. [Shutterstock]

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has failed in her bid to get the ageing Belgian nuclear reactors of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 shut down permanently. Instead, Berlin and Brussels have agreed to a better exchange of information on all things atomic. EURACTIV Germany reports.

After ten months of negotiations with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon, Barbara Hendricks managed to broker a bilateral agreement on nuclear safety. The most significant development is the establishment of a joint expert committee and a regular exchange of information pertaining to safety issues.

Hendricks in fact praised the process for achieving what it has in so short a time, saying that it “underlines the great importance that both Germany and Belgium attach to nuclear safety”.

The environment minister did, however, admit that the agreement did “not meet all the needs and expectations of border communities”.

At the end of 2015, the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors, which are near the Dutch and German borders, were recommissioned, causing a stir not just in the borderlands but in Berlin too, because of a number of safety concerns still hanging over the two facilities.

Germany tells Belgium to take two nuclear reactors offline

Germany has called upon the Belgian government to take two of its nuclear reactors temporarily offline, as there are “open safety concerns”, according to its environment minister. EURACTIV Germany reports.

In February of this year, Hendricks’ ministry approached its Belgian counterpart with the idea of setting up a common nuclear commission, in the same vein as ones that already exist between itself and countries like France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

The group of experts will meet for the first time next year and plans for the first instalment are already well underway.

In April, the German government actually called for the two reactors to be shut down when hydrogen flakes were found in both their pressure vessels.

“Independent RSK experts could not verify that Tihange 2 and Doel 3 could abide by their safety margins,” warned Hendricks at the time. She added that “I only think it is right that the facilities be taken offline, temporarily, until further investigations are carried out.”

EU's ageing nuclear reactors pose significant safety risks

It isn’t just far-off Ukraine that has its worries about nuclear power. 128 nuclear power plants in the EU with an average age of 30.6 years provide food for thought that is much closer to home. EURACTIV’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

But this new agreement between the German and Belgian governments makes no mention of decommissioning the two ageing reactors and does nothing to interfere with national competences in the realm of nuclear regulation.

Hendricks looked on the bright-side though and said that the new framework would provide a foundation for an open and critical discussion between the two countries on nuclear safety issues. She added that “our bilateral cooperation has today taken on a new, legally-binding, dimension”.

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