Engie, a 100% shareholder of Electrabel, the operator of the seven Belgian nuclear reactors, surprised, on Tuesday November 17, by announcing to its employees, in a video broadcast within the company, its decision to stop all its projects linked to a possible extension of certain units. A decision that could mark the end of the long nuclear saga in Belgium.
Decided in 2003, postponed to 2014, this exit is now set for December 2025. The ecologists, who had obtained this decision, highly symbolic for them, during their first participation in federal power, make, seventeen years later, to new part of government. They even landed the energy portfolio for one of their own, the Flemish Tinne Van der Straeten. Present before the deputies on Tuesday, the minister however stressed that no final decision would be taken before the end of 2021.
Having become cautious – or realistic – the two green parties, Ecolo and Groen, in fact accepted a compromise when negotiating the government agreement concluded with the socialist and liberal, French-speaking and Flemish parties: the principle of release has been confirmed, but on condition that any risk of a supply disruption is ruled out. In October 2019, Jean-Marc Nollet, co-president of Ecolo, had surprised by declaring that the abandonment of nuclear power was not ” an end in itself “.
Countless political quarrels
According to the government, it is therefore only after an assessment of the new production capacities that the final decision should be made in November 2021. ” Too late “, had repeated several times the management of Engie, invoking the impossibility of modernizing in time the most recent units, Doel 4 and Tihange 3. Impossible, also, according to the operator, to have the necessary fuel, taking into account the usual delivery times.
The expenditure necessary for upgrading the facilities (1 billion euros) no doubt also influenced the decision of the energy company, reflected in a message to the staff of Thierry Saegeman, head of the nuclear division of Electrabel. “We cannot invest tens of millions of euros without certainty of return”, he notably indicated to his 5,000 employees.
According to RTBF, a final consultation with the government took place over the weekend of 14-15 November. Present at this meeting, the Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, would have confirmed that the program of his cabinet would be applied and that the country would opt in particular for the construction of gas power stations. A little over a year ago, a surprise offer from Qatar suggested the construction, by the company EGL, of four gas-fired power plants capable of supplying 3,080 megawatts (MW) to a country in need of capacity. of 3,600 MW. An apparently frozen file.
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