Accord reached on extending operation of Belgian units

10 January 2023

French utility Engie and the Belgian federal government have signed an agreement with a view to restarting the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power reactors in 2026 and operating them for a further ten years. Both units are currently scheduled to be shut down in 2025.

Prime Minister Alexander de Croo (right) and Energy Minister Tinne Van Der Straeten announce the agreement with Engie (Image:

Under a plan announced by Belgium's coalition government in December 2021, Doel 3 was shut down in September 2022, while Tihange 2 will be shut down at the end of this month. The newer Doel 4 and Tihange 3 would be shut down by 2025. However, in March last year the Belgian government decided to start talks with Electrabel - the Belgian subsidiary of Engie - with a view to extending the operation of Doel 4 and Tihange 3, allowing for the retention of 2 GWe of nuclear generation capacity. In July, the government and Electrabel signed a non-binding Letter of Intent on continuing negotiations on the feasibility and terms for the operation of the reactors for a further ten years. The two sides aimed to agree a binding legal agreement by the end of December.

The signing of a Heads of Terms and Commencement of LTO Studies Agreement was announced on 9 January by Prime Minister Alexander de Croo and Energy Minister Tinne Van Der Straeten.

"This agreement in principle is an important step and paves the way for the conclusion of full agreements in the coming months," a government statement said. "It also provides for the immediate commencement of the required environmental and technical studies to obtain the permits necessary for this extension."

The statement said the new agreement "concretises the elements" of the Letter of Intent signed in July. The agreement outlines the creation of a legal structure for the two units, jointly owned by the Belgian State and Engie. It also sets the framework for a cap on future radioactive waste disposal costs, which will allow the technical and financial parameters of a cap, including a risk premium, to be defined in the coming weeks. In addition, the agreement establishes a set of guarantees "to ensure the proper performance of the nuclear operator's commitments".

"With this agreement, both parties confirm their objective to make every effort to restart the nuclear reactors of Doel 4 and Tihange 3 in November 2026," the government said.

"Today we made an important agreement about the energy supply of our country," de Croo said in a Facebook post. "After two very intensive weeks, Engie and I set the framework for the extension of the nuclear reactors of Goal 4 and Tihange 3. So the works can start tomorrow.

"We hereby take back our fate in our own hands, which will benefit both supply security and price. In addition to the expansion of offshore wind turbines, gas, hydrogen and solar panels, the extension of nuclear reactors gives us the short and long term security we need today."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News