Belgium gets out of nuclear power

Press release - 6 December, 2002
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The Belgian parliament today voted in favour of new legislation which will see the phasing out of all its seven nuclear power reactors. Belgium now joins the majority of EU Member States who are either non-nuclear or have their own phase out plans. Only Finland currently has plans for any new reactors whilst the UK is reviewing its policy. Greenpeace considers this vote as an essential first step towards a much faster shutdown of nuclear power in Belgium.

In an historic vote, 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 (1).

In welcoming today's vote as a move towards nuclear shut down Belgian Greenpeace campaigner Jan Vande Putte commented that "another country with a large nuclear industry is stepping out. This is a clear message to the industry that nuclear power is a dead end and that new investments in clean and renewable technologies is the way forward."

Belgium's seven nuclear reactors currently produce 57% of the country's electricity. Under this new law, the first reactors Doel 1, Doel 2 and Tihange 1 will have to close at the latest on February 15th 2015. The other four reactors - Doel 3&4 and Tihange 2&3 will close, at the latest, in 2022/ 2025. Today's vote does not affect the activities of Belgium's nuclear safety authority and its rights to close down any reactor earlier than planned on safety grounds.

The closure of the oldest 3 reactors in 2015 is, however, a matter of urgency. Previous industry documents, made public earlier this year, have shown that these reactors had leaks. These old Chessna-class reactors can merely withstand a crash of a light sports airline 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," Vande Putte concluded.

Belgium has no need for nuclear power. Last summer, Greenpeace demonstrated that Belgium could tap into the massive - practical unlimited- potential for 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 (2).

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.

Notes: Text of the law: http://www.lachambre.be/cgi-bin/docs.bat?l=f&dir=1910 Background information (in Dutch and French) on the Greenpeace Belgium website: www.greenpeace.be(1) The law also includes an exception in case of a 'force majeure', when the security of supply would be threatened, but this exception does not apply when there is obstruction from the industry or when the plans and measures of the Belgian electricity regulator CREG are not implemented.(2) This was demonstrated in the report by the University of Antwerp on the Belgian nuclear phaseout (see our website: www.greenpeace.be).

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