Belgium gets out of nuclear power

Feature story - 6 December, 2002
The Belgian parliament voted in favour of phasing out all seven of its nuclear power reactors today. With this historic vote Belgium joins the majority of EU member states who are either non-nuclear or have their own phase out plans.

Wind turbine erected by Greenpeace activists in front of the Doel nuclear power plant to protest discrimination against renewable energy by the Belgian government.

Currently only Finland has plans for new reactors and the UK is reviewing its policy. This vote as an essential first step towards a much faster shutdown of nuclear power in Belgium.

The Belgian coalition of liberals, socialists and greens established a ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants and limited the license of the existing seven nuclear reactors to a maximum of 40 years.

Belgium currently gets almost 60 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy and is the second largest user of nuclear power in Europe after France. The fact that Belgium is turning its back on nuclear energy send a strong message to the industry that nuclear power is a dead end and that new investments in clean and renewable technologies is the way forward.

Under this new law, all reactors will close by 2025 at the latest but does not prevent the Belgium's nuclear safety authority from closing down any reactor earlier than planned on safety grounds.

The closure of the oldest three reactors is planned for 2015 and is a matter of urgency. Industry documents made public earlier this year have shown that these reactors had leaks. These old Chessna-class reactors can barely withstand a crash of a light sports airliner at moderate speed, making them vulnerable targets for terrorist attacks. The old reactors are ticking time bombs threatening the European population and should be closed at once.

Despite the nuclear industry's rhetoric of a 'nuclear renaissance', the reality is that Europe is in fact abandoning this dangerous technology.

And Belgium has no need for nuclear power. Last summer, we showed Belgium it could tap into the massive, practically unlimited, potential of offshore wind generation on the North sea which surpasses the total electricity consumption of North sea countries, thus ending the traditional belief that Belgium has only a very limited renewable potential. Combined with other technologies, such as cogeneration and energy efficiency, Belgium could replace its last reactor within 10 to 15 years.

According to the Belgian parliamentary system the Senate has the right to call for a further debate on the legislation before it can enter into force.