Belgium is still procrastinating on an exit from nuclear power

The complete phase-out of nuclear power in 2025 is “The solution that will create the least amount of worry” : it is with a realism that seemed not to exclude a good deal of uncertainty that the entourage of the Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, commented, Friday, December 3, on the conclusions of the report that she presented to his colleagues for a final verdict on a twenty-two year old case.

This document was to serve as the basis for a decision on the closure of the Belgian park. Differences within the coalition led by the Flemish liberal Alexander De Croo, however, meant that the problem was postponed until later. “We will decide before the end of the year”, promises a representative of one of the seven parties that make up the majority.

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What security of supply, what consequences for prices that are already among the highest in Europe, what alternative, what effect on CO emissions2, etc. ? Mme Van der Straeten, a Flemish environmentalist, torn between her desire to finally materialize her party’s promises and the obligation to convince all of her partners, had to answer questions and criticism.

Supply difficulties

The main one relating to the fact that by renouncing any extension, Belgium will invest in more polluting gas power stations and, in the meantime, increase its dependence on gas purchased abroad, in Russia in particular. . Two arguments swept aside: Belgium would be able, without additional effort, to meet its European emissions targets, and the risk linked to Russia would be low, since gas from this country only represents 5% to 6% of the total. overall volume imported.

Regarding security of supply, the report considers that it is guaranteed, taking into account investment projects in various new energy sources. The kingdom intends in particular to become a leader in the field of wind power and hydrogen.

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On the other hand, underline the experts, it is an extension of some of the seven reactors which would cause supply difficulties, since it would threaten investment projects, in the field of gas among others, and therefore, ultimately, the profitability of new installations.

A major uncertainty remains, however: one of the main gas-fired power plant projects to be built in the Flemish suburbs of Brussels is currently facing a veto from the regional government of Flanders. Led by the nationalists of the Neo-Flemish Alliance, hostile to the nuclear phase-out, he refused a building permit for this installation, a major element of the federal government’s projects.

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