Nuclear power: Belgian reactor Doel 3 goes offline

Reactor 3 of the Belgian nuclear power plant in Doel will be taken off the grid today, Friday. The nuclear power plant has been running for 40 years, now the electricity production stops there for the time being. A decommissioning process lasting decades could begin before the nuclear power plant can finally be dismantled. However, efforts are being made to keep the power plant running, i.e. to connect it to the grid again.

Block 4 in Doel will continue to run longer than originally planned, it has been certain since March of this year. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Belgian government decided to keep this reactor and Tihange 3 running for another ten years. Both have been in operation since 1985 and, according to the Belgian nuclear phase-out decision of 2003, should actually be switched off by 2025 at the latest.

In view of the aggravated energy situation in Europe, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said last week according to their own statements asked the Belgian nuclear regulator FANC to check whether the closure of Doel 3 could be postponed. The government is talking about whether Doel 3 could go back online.

There are similar discussions in Germany. There, the parliamentary group of the CDU and CSU presented a draft amendment to the Atomic Energy Act on Thursday. She wants to ensure that the three nuclear power plants Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland that are still running in Germany can continue to run until December 31, 2024. So far, the Atomic Energy Act, which was amended in 2011 under the aegis of the then CDU/CSU-SPD government, stipulates that the three power plants will be shut down by the end of this year at the latest. The application was referred to the relevant committees.

Steffen Bilger from the CDU/CSU parliamentary group argued that the nuclear power plants urgently needed to be continued in view of skyrocketing electricity prices. It is absurd to switch off the nuclear power plants in the acute energy crisis. Jakob Blankenburg (SPD) replied that the Union was only talking about temporary continued operation until 2024, but was keeping a “back door” open for significantly longer operation. In addition, the CDU and CSU put questions of security at the back.

Julia Verlinden from the Greens objected that nuclear power was not only inflexible but also risky and expensive. “The longer the nuclear power plants run, the longer they stand in the way of the energy transition.” The left also believe that continued operation is wrong, while Judith Skudelny from the governing FDP party pleaded for the nuclear power plants to continue to operate over the coming winter. The ifo Institute has calculated that the continued operation of all three German nuclear power plants that are still active could reduce the electricity price by 4 percent.

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Doel is 150 kilometers and Tihange 70 kilometers from the German border. In the summer of 2021, the city of Cologne signed a resolution against the extension of the service life. According to the resolution initiated by the Aachen region, the Doel site has been the subject of controversial discussion for years due to various safety concerns. The region had already made provisions for a possible nuclear accident in 2017 with iodine tablets.


Block C of the nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, Bavaria, has been in operation since March 1984. Unit A operated from 1967 to 1977. Block B, which went online in 1984, was shut down on December 31, 2017, Block C – also commissioned in 1984 – followed at the end of 2021. (Image: kkw-gundremmingen.de)


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