Belgian Ministers threaten to close border to stop destabilisation from French nuclear power

Two Belgian Ministers call for an end to nuclear subsidies and promotion of renewable energy

Press release - 4 July, 2002

The Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, begins the first leg of the 'Choose Positive Energy Tour' in a global journey to support the development renewable energy around the world.

Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister today called for an end to subsidies for nuclear power and a boost for development of renewable energy. Speaking onboard the Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior, the Ministers strongly backed the calls from environmental groups to end subsidies for dirty nuclear power and to promote renewable energy.

During a visit to the Rainbow Warrior, Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister, van de Lanotte, backed Greenpeace's campaign against nuclear subsidies recognising that they threaten the development of renewable energy.

"Today nuclear power is blocking access to the electricity grid?..wind energy should get free access to the grid and this will free the way for the full development of renewable energy. An important element is the absence of an electricity grid in the North Sea, which obliges each individual wind project to develop their own grid. The national grid organisation, Elia, should manage this as it does for the land based grid," van de Lanotte said.

Belgium's Energy Minister, Deleuze, referred to the existing national regulations, which already give priority access to the grid for renewable energy projects. He said this priority access still needs to be enforced and extended to cover the whole European electricity market specifically for cross border transmission lines, which at present have only a limited capacity.

An enormous strain is being placed on the Belgium grid by France?s nuclear exports through it, Deleuze said. "My first task as Energy Minister is the security of supply, and if the French exports to Germany and the Netherlands is putting too much stress on the Belgian grid, I will take the

responsibility to block the flow at the French Belgium border," he warned. "I have written to my colleagues in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland to explain this policy and to call for the development of a European policy to resolve the problem," he said.

Greenpeace welcomed the support of the government ministers and repeated its call for a full investigation into the subsidies to nuclear power and a plan for their elimination.

Jan van de Putte from Greenpeace Belgium said: "The establishment of a dedicated North Sea grid is a pre-condition for the large scale development of offshore wind power. With the right policy in place wind energy could supply one third of our electricity needs within a generation. This Government has the responsibility to make that energy revolution happen and to phase out nuclear power."

The visit followed an action earlier this week in which Greenpeace activists climbed the cooling tower of the Belgium's Doel nuclear plant calling for an end to discrimination against renewable energy sources and nuclear subsidies.