Belgium finalizes deal with Engie on extended life of nuclear plants

The deal between the French multinational and the Belgian government on the lifetime extension of Belgium’s two youngest nuclear power plants, Doel 4 and Tihange 3, has been fully finalized.

According to federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen), the 1 500-page contract will be discussed at the various federal vice cabinets this week, after which it will move to the inner cabinet next week and then be submitted to the Council of State. The Minister also makes the case that the deal “will not cost the taxpayer anything”.

‘On time in parliament’

In March 2022, the federal government opted to keep Doel 4 and Tihange 3 open for ten more years. This would make Belgium less dependent on natural gas from abroad for energy supplies.

A year later, it was also decided that Engie would put 15 billion euros on the table for disposal of the radioactive waste and that the Belgian state would become partly owner.

Those agreements were put into detailed texts and negotiated by both parties over the past months. Those negotiations are now finished, and once the text has been given the green light within the government and submitted to the Council of State, the whole dossier can still be discussed in parliament before the new elections. The deal also remains to be forwarded to the European Commission.

Guaranteed electricity price

Specifically, the French energy group will pay 15 billion euros to the Belgian government for the disposal and remediation of nuclear waste after 2050. Engie will also keep another 8 billion euros aside for its operations. By November 2025, Tihange 3 and Doel 4 should be ready to run for ten more years.

Engie and the Belgian government have also agreed on a guaranteed electricity price. If market prices are lower than the agreed or guaranteed price for the power it produces, the Belgian government must make up the difference to Engie. Conversely, Engie pays the government part or all of the excess profit.

Van der Straeten calls the option of immediately providing for a possible lifespan extension of 20 instead of 10 years in the current texts as “absurd”, especially since it has been stipulated that every ten years, there should be an evaluation of whether the plants still meet the safety requirements.

Small nuclear power plants

At the climate summit in Dubai, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) hinted that the next government should “consider an extension of Doel 4 and Tihange 3” and look at Tihange 1.

That reactor, which will be 50 years old in 2025, was previously mentioned for a possible life extension, but there is a threat of a problem with the high voltage, and the reactor does not meet the latest safety requirements.

Belgium joined an international consortium with the US, Italy, and Romania to develop small nuclear power plants. Belgium has already invested 100 million euros in research and aims to bring the technology to the market by 2040.

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