The Belgian nuclear power plants Doel and Tihange are well known beyond Belgian borders. In particular Doel 3 and Tihange 2, the two reactors that started operation in the early 80s, have reached a dubious distinction across Europe. In 2012, after a scheduled safety review, thousands of flaw indications in the steel walls of the reactor pressure vessels of Doel 3, and later of Tihange 2, were discovered by the operators. The responsible authority, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), prohibited the restart of these two reactors until it had been conclusively proven that there was no risk to the safety of the reactor pressure vessels.
After a number of tests which some described as non-conclusive, both reactors received the green light to be restarted end of 2015. At the same time, the government decided to extend the lifespan for the reactors Doel 1 and 2 until 2025 – supposed end date for Belgian nuclear power usage - without a public consultation or a new environmental impact assessment. Not only in Belgium, but also in neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, these decisions were criticised.
A breakfast debate on the 3rd of March, hosted by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (hbs) European Union Office and the Representation of North Rhine-Westphalia, was introduced by Rainer Steffens, Director of the Representation as well as Klaus Linsenmeier, Director of the hbs EU Office. It aimed at shedding a light at the current situation in Belgium after the repeated shutdown of nuclear power plants, as well as discussing the Belgian nuclear policy with Dutch and German neighbours who are equally concerned. The panel represented a wide range of viewpoints, from both the involved countries and the pro- and anti-nuclear sides: Simone Peter (Co-Chair, Alliance ‘90/The Greens, Germany), Pierre-Etienne Labeau (Professor at Nuclear Metrology Department, Université Libre de Bruxelles), Gerdo van Grootheest (Deputy Mayor of Maastricht), Peter Knitsch (Secretary of State, Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Conservation and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia), Matthias Meersschaert (Belgian Nuclear Forum) and Peer de Rijck (WISE Netherlands) were the panellists at this breakfast meeting. Kathrin Glastra from the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung chaired the debate, which was taking place almost five, respectively 30, years after the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear catastrophes.