Thursday, March 17, 2011

Belgians question their country's nuclear safety

As a reaction to the question of how scared we should be, Belgians have begun to wonder about the safety of its nuclear power plants.

Belgium has two nuclear power stations, one in Doel near Antwerp and one in Tihange near Li├Ęge. The 7 reactors have a total capacity of 5824  MW of electric power.

The Germans recently decided to temporarily shut down seven of their nuclear power plants. The German reactors that were shut down are of the same type as three of Belgium's reactors: two at the Doel plant and one at Tihange.

Belgian Interior Minister Annemie Turtelboom does not take the German decision lightly. Says she in this article:
This will have an enormous impact on electricity and energy supplies. It’s a decision that should not be taken lightly and certainly not unilaterally. If all European countries acted in this fashion energy supplies would be in jeopardy. A decision like this should be taken jointly by the Europeans.
Obviously, the Belgian government doesn't want any criticism for letting its old reactors - of the same type that the Germans were so quick to pull the plug on - run as normal.

Tihange nuclear power station. (Wikipedia)

The safety of Belgium's nuclear power stations has recently been questioned by Kristof Calvo of Belgium's green party, Groen!. He expressed particular concern over the Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 reactors, the oldest in Belgium's nuclear 'family'.

In this article he says (translated):
"Take the evacuation radius of 10 km. This is an arbitrary choice. Scientists have been saying for years that 30 km would be better. In addition, the Chernobyl report of 1991 made it clear that the reactors and Tihange Target do not fully meet the requirements." 
"Incidentally, I am not the only one who thinks this. In late 2010 the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) made a disturbing report. 25 safety problems were registered for the two oldest reactors at Doel; Tihange alone had 18."
Is that a lot or a little? I would think that anything above 0 is reason for concern. Maybe we should be afraid.


  1. Yeah, I saw it on the news yesterday evening. They said that alternative solutions like wind energy and solar energy can't replace the nuclear energy from the power stations. But I really don't like the sound of those safety problems :s

  2. It's true that you can get a lot more power out of a nuclear power plant than from a windmill. And even if you covered all of Belgium with solar panels, it still wouldn't produce as much energy as the seven reactors you have running at the moment :-/

    I'm for nuclear energy, but I'm even more for nuclear safety ;)