The management of Engie Electrabel met staff representatives on Tuesday afternoon to announce its intention to stop all investments related to extending the life of nuclear power plants, said Franco Vincent, Gazelco union representative (CGSP / FGTB), confirming the information published earlier today in Trends magazine and L’Echo newspaper on their website.
“After constructive discussions, we must see that the current government has a clear intention to implement the government agreement“, explained in substance the operator in its internal communication, according to Trends and L’Echo.”We can therefore conclude that the Belgian government has definitely opted for the construction of new gas-fired power stations. This means two things: a complete nuclear phase-out. Then, we no longer have to wait for a final decision (for a possible extension of the plants, editor’s note) for the end of 2021“, continues the communication.
“Engie Electrabel announced the shutdown of the seven Belgian units for 2025, as provided for in the government agreement, even though the government has left itself until the end of 2021 to act on its decision. Engie Electrabel has indicated that the group reserves the right to say no to an extension if it is not at least ten years to ensure return on investment.“, said Franco Vincent.
The union representative was particularly worried about the impact of such a decision on employment. “Taking into account subcontracting, this concerns around 3,500 jobs just for Tihange, and probably as many at Doel“, he said, mentioning that a strike notice would soon be considered to advance negotiations on the future of the staff.
A “unrealistic” scenario
The new federal government is committed to maintaining the nuclear phase-out in 2025, while leaving the door open, until the end of 2021, for an extension of the two least old reactors (Doel 4 and Tihange 3).
At the beginning of October, Engie Electrabel had however hinted in a note that this scenario was “not realistic“.
Engie has repeatedly said that a decision on an extension of the power plants should be taken by the end of 2020 at the latest. The timing is indeed tight. Fuel orders and the work required to extend the power plants will take 30 to 36 months. In addition, there is an environmental impact study (between 18 and 24 months) and the eyes of the European Commission (a few months). In addition, Engie Electrabel did not intend to invest one billion euros in nuclear materials without an appropriate legal framework.
According to the newspaper L’Echo, a works council will be held next Monday to align Engie’s decision with the instructions given to workers. “We are not afraid of restructuring before the shutdown of Tihange 2, but many skilled workers and engineers may want to go to other countries or to the gas sector. This is already the case in Doel, where the power station is vampirized by the nearby petrochemical industry.“, comments a union official, quoted by the newspaper.