Energy company Engie has announced its terms for a possible expansion of Belgian nuclear power plants until 2035. The French company does not seem to want to bear the costs alone. “Engie can only enter into this extension within a balanced risk distribution framework, with a clear, stable and viable regulatory framework for the required investments, including a clear framework for decommissioning nuclear power plants and nuclear waste,” it reads.
In mid-March, the federal government asked Engi to extend the life of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors by ten years, until 2035. “This means that Engi will have to fulfill its role as a nuclear operator for much longer than expected. The company said that Engy is contributing to the reorientation and is working with the government to study the feasibility and conditions for implementing this new scenario.
Engi reiterates that it has already indicated that it will take five years to implement the scenario, as the company has indicated stringent commitments related to, among other things, nuclear safety. Belgian CEO Thierry Seigman also said earlier that the reactors in question would likely be shut down between 2025 and 2027, in order to be able to make the necessary adjustments.
The reactor extension work also coincides with the start-up and dismantling of neighboring reactors, Engi says. Considering its size, this extension would potentially present a risk profile that would override the normal activities of a special operator.
In the short term, the French company’s priorities are to “maintain a high level of operational availability, in preparation for the eventual shutdown of its first two units this winter (Doel 3 on October 1 and Tihange 2 on February 1, 2023, editor.† In the second half of this year, the company plans to begin the triennial review of its nuclear facilities. Engy specifies, “On this last point, following the same process as in 2019, this review will take into account any required update of technical and economic scenarios, in particular costs, schedule and discount rates.”
To finance the dismantling of Belgian nuclear power plants and the disposal of nuclear waste, an amount of 41 billion euros will be needed until 2100. A piggy bank of more than 14 billion has already been set up in the Synatom subsidiary, but part of it has been loaned back to Engie to finance new projects. So it remains to be seen how much the French will actually put on the table.
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