BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Belgium may extend the life of its nuclear sector, deferring an exit planned for 2025 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced a rethink by the governing coalition.
Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten presented a note to core cabinet members on Wednesday, which broadcaster RTBF said referred to a bill to be approved by the end of March extending the lives of the two newest reactors by up to 10 years.
Van der Straeten, a Green lawmaker, told parliament on Thursday that Belgium had to be open-minded as long as operator Engie could ensure safety, affordability and security of supply if the reactors’ lives were prolonged.
“I can confirm we have had contacts and exchanges with Engie about the prolongation of the 2 gigawatts,” she said. “There is no mandate for negotiations with Engie today. That is on the table of the government tomorrow.”
The minister is expected to set out on Friday a plan to reduce Belgium’s reliance on fossil fuels, notably from Russia, with an increase of offshore wind parks, more solar panels and a reduction of gas and oil heating by 2026.
Belgium’s nuclear switch-off had initially relied on a shift to natural gas, including a gas-fired plant to be built just north of Brussels, although permission was not certain.
The government at the end of 2021 gave itself until mid-March to see if the permit was granted and, if not, consider other options.
The two reactors whose lives could be extended are the 1,038 megawatt number 3 reactor Tihange plant in eastern Belgium and the 1,039 MW number 4 reactor at the Doel plant near Antwerp. The reactors, which came into service in 1985, make up 35% of the country’s nuclear energy capacity.
French utility Engie operates Belgium’s two nuclear plants.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Marine Strauss and Barbara Lewis)